We show the first real-time record of a turbidity current associated with a great earthquake, the Mw 9.0, 2011 Tohoku-Oki event offshore Japan. Turbidity current deposits (turbidites) have been used to estimate earthquake recurrence intervals from geologic records. Until now, however, there has been no direct evidence for large-scale earthquakes in subduction plate margins. After the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake and tsunami, an anomalous event on the seafloor consistent with a turbidity current was recorded by ocean-bottom pressure recorders and seismometers deployed offSendai, Japan. Freshly emplaced turbidites were collected from a wide area of seafloor offthe Tohoku coastal region. We analyzed these measurements and sedimentary records to determine conditions of the modern tsunamigenic turbidity current. We anticipate our discovery to be a starting point for more detailed characterization of modern tsunamigenic turbidites, and for the identification of tsunamigenic turbidites in geologic records.
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