It has been proposed that dehydration embrittlement of hydrous materials can trigger intermediate-depth earthquakes and form a double seismic zone in a subducting slab. Seismic anisotropy may provide a possible insight into intermediate-depth intraslab seismicity, because anisotropic properties of minerals change with varying water distribution, temperature and pressure. Here we present a high-resolution model of P-wave radial anisotropy tomography of the Japan subduction zone down to ~400 km depth, which is obtained using a large number of arrival-Time data of local earthquakes and teleseismic events. Our results reveal a close correlation between the pattern of intermediate-depth seismicity and anisotropic structures. The seismicity occurs in portions of the Pacific and Philippine Sea slabs where positive radial anisotropy (i.e., horizontal velocity being faster than vertical one) dominates due to dehydration, whereas the inferred anhydrous parts of the slabs are found to be aseismic where negative radial anisotropy (i.e., vertical velocity being faster than horizontal one) dominates. Our anisotropic results suggest that intermediate-depth earthquakes in Japan could be triggered by dehydration embrittlement of hydrous minerals in the subducting slabs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas