Abstract

The high frequency of earthquake clusters generated by pure strike‐slip faulting over the past 3 yr (beginning in 2017 in the Songliao basin, northeastern China) has motivated us to consider why lateral strike slip and not extension determines the seismic activity within the Songliao basin. Precise location and characterization of relocated aftershocks, forward modeling of the coseismic displacement field, and Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring data are combined to detect the possible seismogenic structures of the Songyuan earthquake sequence. The 2017 ML 5.3 aftershock cluster coincided with the northeast‐striking Fuyu–Zhaodong fault (FZF), and the 2018 aftershock swarm followed the linear trend (N42°W) of the Songhuajiang fault (SHF). In addition, the forward modeling results indicate that during the earthquakes, right‐lateral and left‐lateral strike‐slip displacements occurred simultaneously along the FZF and SHF, respectively. These two strike‐slip faults joined to accommodate the intervening crustal blocks’ asymmetrical east–west convergence and a single northward extrusion. We also utilize 5 yr of GPS data to construct the regional strain‐rate map for the basin. The measurements show that right‐lateral transform motion along the immense northeast‐striking right‐lateral strike‐slip faults, for example, the Tanlu fault zone and the FZF, impose a northeast‐striking simple shear across the Songliao basin. This simple shear not only caused left‐lateral movement on the minor northwest‐striking left‐lateral strike‐slip faults such as the SHF but also rotated them 14° clockwise into their present orientations. The results of the proposed bookshelf faulting model in which the predominant northeast‐striking parallel faults are initiated are consistent with the observed lineament orientations, focal mechanisms, and earthquake distributions. The sharp shift in the subduction direction of the Pacific plate seems to have had a considerable influence on the intracontinental deformation in China, at least throughout northeastern China.

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