Abstract

The seismicity rate in the southwestern Sichuan basin, China, dramatically increased after 2014. The associated moderate earthquakes may have been induced by salt mining or shale gas exploration. The location of the seismogenic faults causing these moderate earthquakes has not been confirmed, resulting in a lack of understanding of the earthquake mechanisms in the study area. The detailed structural characteristics of pre‐existing faults, which are typically responsible for induced seismicity, are unclear. In this study, we used high‐resolution seismic reflection profiles in conjunction with geological, seismologic, and geodetic data to reveal the 3D distributions of the seismogenic faults. Basement thrust faults in the Changning anticline were identified using seismic interpretations and are associated with the 2019 Changning earthquake sequence. The geometry and location of these pre‐existing faults are consistent with previous studies of the seismology and structural geology in the area. The well‐developed pre‐existing fault system in the sedimentary cover and basement makes the Changning area vulnerable to induced earthquakes. Present‐day reactivation of the basement fault system reveals the unstable state of the local tectonic stress field. It is possible that the potential seismic risk in this region could be increased by industrial activity in the southwestern Sichuan basin.

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