On 11 March 2011, the devastating M9.0 Tohoku Earthquake occurred on the interface of the subducting Pacific plate, and was followed by a huge tsunami that killed about 20,000 people. Several geophysical studies have already suggested that the very shallow portion of the plate interface might have played an important role in producing such a large earthquake and tsunami. However, the sparsity of seafloor observations leads to insufficient spatial resolution of the fault slip on such a shallow plate interface. For this reason, the location and degree of the slip has not yet been estimated accurately enough to assess future seismic risks. Thus, we estimated the coseismic slip distribution based on terrestrial GPS observations and all available seafloor geodetic data that significantly improve the spatial resolution at the shallow portion of the plate interface. The results reveal that an extremely large (greater than 50 m) slip occurred in a small (about 40 km in width and 120 km in length) area near the Japan Trench and generated the huge tsunami. The estimated slip distribution and a comparison of it with the coupling coefficient distribution deduced from the analysis of the small repeating earthquakes suggest that the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake released strain energy that had accumulated over the past 1000 years, probably since the Jogan Earthquake in 869. The accurate assessments of seismic risks on very shallow plate interfaces in subduction zones throughout the world can be obtained by improving the quality and quantity of seafloor geodetic observations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science