Mapping the b-values along the Longmenshan fault zone before and after the 12 May 2008, Wenchuan, China, MS 8.0 earthquake
The b-value in the Gutenberg-Richter frequency-magnitude distribution, which is assumed to be related to stress heterogeneity or asperities, was mapped along the Longmenshan fault zone which accommodated the 12 May 2008, Wenchuan, MS 8.0 earthquake. Spatial distributions of b-value before and after the Wenchuan earthquake, respectively, were compared with the slip distribution of the mainshock. It is shown that the mainshock rupture nucleated near to, but not within, the high-stress (low b-value) asperity in the south part of the Longmenshan fault, propagating north-eastward to the relatively low stress (high b-value) region. Due to the significant difference between the rupture process results from different sources, the comparison between slip distribution and pre-seismic b-value distribution leads to only conclusion of the rule-of-thumb. The temporal change of b-value before the mainshock shows a weak trend of decreasing, being hard to be used as an indicator of the approaching of the mainshock. Distribution of b-values for the aftershocks relates the termination of the mainshock rupture to the harder patch along the Longmenshan fault to the north.