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Ten years after Wenchuan Earthquake, our lab has obtained great achievements ----2018-05-11

Ten years ago, a Ms 8 earthquake struck Wenchuan, Sichuan on 12th May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people, 1/3 of which were caused by geohazards triggered by the earthquake. It is the most destructive earthquake in China in recent 60 years. The geological environment of the mega earthquake is extremely fragile, with high magnitude, large energy release and long lasting time. The landslides triggered by Wenchuan Earthquake are rare and unique in the world with big quantity, large scale, various types and complex formation mechanism. After the earthquake, our lab has obtained a lot of cutting-edge achievements not only in disaster relief and reconstruction, but also in the long-term tracking research on the geohazards in this region.


At the time of the10th anniversary of Wenchuan Earthquake, our lab published a comprehensive essay: “What we have learned from the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake and its aftermath: A decade of research and challenges” on Engineering Geology ( The achievements obtained by scholars at home and abroad in the past ten years are summarized in the essay, and the challenges in research and future research directions are also analyzed in it. The essay was reported by Science Trends:


Main research achievements obtained by our lab in the past ten years are as follows:


(1) Database establishment and spatial distribution research of co-seismic geohazards triggered by strong earthquakes


When Wenchuan Earthquake occurred, remote sensing and geographic information technology were highly developed. A large number of high-precision remote sensing data were conducive to establish a database of co-seismic geohazards. Remote sensing interpretation showed that Wenchuan Earthquake induced the most number of geohazards comparing with other earthquakes. Our team interpreted 60,140 disasters in 2010, and Xu Chong made more precise interpretations of 197,000 disasters in 2013. Through systematic interpretation and analysis, our lab has revealed the development and distribution of the geohazards triggered by Wenchuan Earthquake, and summarized “three factors (seismic factor, topographical factor and geological factor)” and “ten effects”. These achievements instructed the safety assessment and new site selection of Beichuan, Wenchuan, Qingchuan and other towns, and directly applied to the site selection and safety assessment of the Chengdu-Lanzhou high speed rail.


(2) Research on the formation mechanism of large landslides triggered by strong earthquakes


After the earthquake, our lab sent dozens of experts to carry out detailed on-site investigation and study of hundreds of large landslides triggered by the earthquake. It was found that the geological and topographical conditions of strong earthquake triggering landslides, and the phenomena and characteristics presented by the landslide are all very different from those of the conventional gravity-induced landslides and the rainfall-induced landslides, which are far beyond what we have learned from textbooks. Therefore, through the systematic study of the landslides in Wenchuan, our lab established a classification system which includes five main types and fourteen sub-types of landslides induced by strong earthquakes. Besides, it was found that the failure of slope rock mass was mainly "splitting failure". After Wenchuan Earthquake, slope observation points were laid in Qingchuan, Shimian, Luding and other places. So, the observation data of slope vibrations in hundreds of aftershocks of Wenchuan Earthquake were captured.


(3) Research on the chain effect of geohazards triggered by strong earthquakes


The disaster chain: "earthquake→ landslide, collapse→dam, barrier lake →dam break → flood" was established.


(4) Initiation and movement mechanisms of post-seismic debris flow, and rainfall threshold change and risk management


On the basis of a large number of field investigations and flume tests, the new initiation mechanisms of debris flow in meizoseismal area, such as "dam break", "aulacogen" and "collapsing instability", were revealed. Then, our lab found a fast identification method and established accumulation range prediction model of debris flow. Besides, a precise early warning model for debris flow considering topography, geology and rainfall was established; a real time monitoring and early warning system for geohazards was developed, and many large scale debris flows in Qingping and Yingxiu areas were successfully found and warned. Based on the geological characteristics of Wenchuan seismic area, our experts put forward the new ideas and new techniques for debris flow prevention and control, such as " separating water and sand", "Harnessing soil and water separately " and "flexible discharge groove", which solved the technical problems in the prevention and control of large scale debris flow in earthquake areas.


(5) Research on spatio-temporal evolution rule and long-term effect of post-seismic geohazards


Through the continuous close study of the geohazards in the Wenchuan earthquake area, our lab revealed the spatio-temporal evolution rule and control factors of the post-seismic geohazards, and established assessment models for post-seismic landslide activity and debris flow risk.


Based on the above research results, five monographs (including one English monograph) on the geohazards in the area affected by Wenchuan Earthquake have been published. Besides, the research result of "evaluation and prevention of the geohazards in the area affected by Wenchuan Earthquake" obtained by our lab was awarded the first prize of National Scientific and Technological Progress Award in 2014.


Wenchuan Earthquake is a hot research topic, attracting the attention of scholars from all over the world. According to the bibliographic search, there are 6,219 English papers on Wenchuan Earthquake, which come from 67 countries around the world, 70% of Which are completed by Chinese scholars and 17% (more than 1,000 papers) are about geohazards researches. About 260 papers are completed by our lab as the first author or the first institute. As for the high cited papers, our lab is also the institute that published the most high cited papers.


Over the past ten years, four international conferences on the geohazards induced by earthquake have been held in our lab. And the forthcoming international symposium to mark the 10th anniversary of Wenchuan Earthquake attracted over 350 scholars at home and abroad. Besides, our lab held three LARAM Schools and two iRALL Schools, the former was on landslide risk assessment while the latter was on large landslide investigation. Dozens of researchers from our lab have given keynote and academic lectures on the geohazards induced by Wenchuan Earthquake at international conferences. SKLGP has established long-term cooperation relationship with twenty-six countries and regions. It has been one of the important international centers studying geohazards.