There are significant differences between the middle and southern segments of the Japan Trench in terms of the seismic and aseismic slips on the plate interface and seismic velocity structures. Although the large coseismic slip of the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake was limited to the middle segment, the observed negative residual gravity anomaly area in the southern segment corresponds to the postseismic slip area of the Tohoku-Oki earthquake. A density distribution model can explain the different slip behaviours of the two segments by considering their structural differences. The model indicates that the plate interface in the south was covered with a thick channel layer, as indicated by seismic survey imaging, and this layer resulted in a residual gravity anomaly. Numerical simulations which assumed evident frictional heterogeneity caused by the layer in the south efficiently reproduced M9 earthquakes recurring only in the middle, followed by evident postseismic slips in the south. This study proposes that although the layer makes the megathrust less compliant to seismic slip, it promotes aseismic slips following the growth of seismic slips on the fault in an adjacent region.
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