Estimation of Coulomb stress changes and induced earthquake occurrences prediction in the region of Three Gorges Reservoir, China

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In the region of Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) in China, there has been occurrence of several frequent earthquakes of moderate intensity since reservoir impounding occurred in 2003. These earthquakes are generally believed to be induced by reservoir impoundment and water-level variations. Usually, the geo-stress will change, when natural earthquakes occur. Following this principle, this paper adopted the rate and state theory to simulate and estimate Coulomb stress changes in the TGR region and obtained the pattern of Coulomb stress changes with time and the event sequence as well as the distribution of Coulomb stress changes in space. First, the TGR regional catalogue was analyzed and processed, leading to quantification of the magnitude of completeness and all of the parameters that are used in the stress–seismicity inversion process, including the reference seismicity rates, characteristic relaxation time, fault constitutive parameters, and stress rates. Second, the temporal evolution of the stress changes in different time windows was computed and analyzed, and it was found that there is an association between the Coulomb stress changes and rates of increase in the cumulative number of earthquakes. In addition, the earthquake occurred in November 2008 (MS = 4.1) was analyzed and attempted to simulate the distribution of stress changes in space through the stress–seismicity inversion model. The results proved that the modeled area coincides with the historical area of earthquakes that occurred after 2008. Finally, a prediction was made about the earthquake productivity rates after 2015, which showed a declining earthquake rate over time that ultimately returned to the background seismicity. This result is essentially in agreement with Omori’s law. To conclude, it is rational to use the stress-inversion method to analyze the relationship between induced earthquake seismicity and local stress changes as well as to simulate the area of earthquake occurrence and productivity rates of reservoir-induced earthquakes.


External organisations
  • Nankai University
  • Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research China
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
  • Geology


  • Coulomb stress changes, Rate and state model, Reservoir-induced earthquakes, Seismicity rate changes, Three Gorges Reservoir
Original languageEnglish
Article number826
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch