Seismic imaging of the entire arc of Tohoku and Hokkaido in Japan using P-wave, S-wave and sP depth-phase data

Zhi Wang, Dapeng Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


In order to better understand seismic structure and seismotectonics of the entire arc of Tohoku and Hokkaido in Japan, we combined arrival time data from earthquakes beneath Tohoku and Hokkaido land areas, and beneath the Pacific Ocean to determine the three-dimensional (3D) velocity structures (Vp and Vs) under the entire Northeast (NE) Japan-Kuril arc. We adopted 176,431 P-wave and 110,953 S-wave arrival times, from 5123 local earthquakes, and 2843 sP depth-phase data from 385 events that occurred beneath the Pacific Ocean. The 385 suboceanic events were accurately relocated by using P-wave, S-wave and sP depth-phase arrival time data jointly. The obtained results confirmed the major features delineated by previous studies and revealed some new features of the structural heterogeneity beneath NE Japan and the Kuril forearcs. High-velocity anomalies of the cold subducting Pacific slab and low-velocity anomalies in the hot mantle wedge were imaged clearly. Strong lateral heterogeneities were revealed on the upper boundary of the Pacific slab under the forearc region, which showed a good correlation with the spatial distribution of large interplate earthquakes. These results indicated that strong coupling sections (or asperities) and weak-coupled or decoupled patches might exist along the upper boundary of the Pacific slab. Widespread low-velocity anomalies were visible in the forearc mantle above the subducting Pacific slab, which might reflect serpentinization of the forearc mantle associated with the dehydration process of the subducting slab. Our results also showed a general tendency for seismic coupling in the asperities to be located around low-velocity areas on the slab boundary under the suboceanic region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-162
Number of pages19
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Sep 30
Externally publishedYes


  • NE Japan and Kuril arcs
  • Seismic tomography
  • Subduction zone
  • sP depth phase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geophysics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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