Migrating tremor off southern Kyushu as evidence for slow slip of a shallow subduction interface

Science  08 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6235, pp. 676-679
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4242

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Silent slip events get shallow

Clues to help better predict the likelihood of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis may be embedded in a more gentle type of rumbling. Using oceanbottom seismometers, Yamashita et al. report rare observations of migrating tremors in the shallow part of a subduction zone off southern Kyushu, Japan. The tremors appear to be linked to a very low-frequency earthquake and seem to migrate to the region where big earthquakes are generated. The tremors may be tracing how and where stress gets concentrated onto the earthquake-producing portion of the fault.

Science, this issue p. 676


Detection of shallow slow earthquakes offers insight into the near-trench part of the subduction interface, an important region in the development of great earthquake ruptures and tsunami generation. Ocean-bottom monitoring of offshore seismicity off southern Kyushu, Japan, recorded a complete episode of low-frequency tremor, lasting for 1 month, that was associated with very-low-frequency earthquake (VLFE) activity in the shallow plate interface. The shallow tremor episode exhibited two migration modes reminiscent of deep tremor down-dip of the seismogenic zone in some other subduction zones: a large-scale slower propagation mode and a rapid reversal mode. These similarities in migration properties and the association with VLFEs strongly suggest that both the shallow and deep tremor and VLFE may be triggered by the migration of episodic slow slip events.

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