We detected long-term hydrostatic pressure changes at ocean-bottom stations of the Dense Oceanfloor Network system for Earthquakes and Tsunamis (DONET) along the Nankai trough, off southwestern Japan. We detected these changes after removing the contributions of ocean mass variations and sensor drift from the records. In addition, we detected a decrease in the background seismicity rate of a nearby earthquake cluster that was synchronous with the hydrostatic pressure changes. We interpreted these observed hydrostatic pressure changes to reflect vertical deformation of the ocean floor of 3-8 cm, and we consider the cause of the seafloor crustal deformation to be a slow slip event (SSE) beneath the stations. Because the pressure changes were observed at stations with distances less than 20 km to each other, we inferred that the SSE occurred in the shallow part of the sedimentary wedge, such as on a splay fault system. The synchronous observation of an SSE and a seismicity rate change suggests that both were triggered by a change in the regional stress that may be associated with stress accumulation and release processes occurring along the Nankai trough. These data show that continuous and careful monitoring of crustal activities by DONET stations provides an effective way to detect seismic and geodetic signals related to the occurrence of megathrust or other types of large earthquakes.
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