Bimodal seismicity in the Himalaya controlled by fault friction and geometry

Luca Dal Zilio, Ylona van Dinther, Taras Gerya, Jean Philippe Avouac

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78 Citations (Scopus)


There is increasing evidence that the Himalayan seismicity can be bimodal: blind earthquakes (up to Mw ~ 7.8) tend to cluster in the downdip part of the seismogenic zone, whereas infrequent great earthquakes (Mw 8+) propagate up to the Himalayan frontal thrust. To explore the causes of this bimodal seismicity, we developed a two-dimensional, seismic cycle model of the Nepal Himalaya. Our visco-elasto-plastic simulations reproduce important features of the earthquake cycle, including interseismic strain and a bimodal seismicity pattern. Bimodal seismicity emerges as a result of relatively higher friction and a non-planar geometry of the Main Himalayan Thrust fault. This introduces a region of large strength excess that can only be activated once enough stress is transferred upwards by blind earthquakes. This supports the view that most segments of the Himalaya might produce complete ruptures significantly larger than the 2015 Mw 7.8 Gorkha earthquake, which should be accounted for in future seismic hazard assessments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Dec 2019


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