Periodic slow slip triggers megathrust zone earthquakes in northeastern Japan

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Science  29 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6272, pp. 488-492
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3108
  • Fig. 1 Using repeaters to track slow plate-boundary slip.

    Schematic figure showing the tectonic setting (A), the activity of repeaters on the plate boundary (B and C), and steps to estimate the slip-rate time series from repeater data (D to G) (14). There are variably sized seismic patches on the plate boundary surrounded by aseismic slip areas (A). The small repeaters (C) represent repeated rupture of small patches that catch up with the creep in the surrounding areas (B). By calculating the slip of each earthquake, we obtain cumulative slip for each repeater sequence [(D) and (E)]. We average slip in each area (F) and obtain the temporal change of slip rate from the gradient of the averaged cumulative curve (G).

  • Fig. 2 Spatiotemporal distribution of repeaters and temporal variation of slow slip.

    (A) Distribution of repeater sequences (red circles) and slip areas of large earthquakes (black and white contours) (1113, 29, 30). Cyan squares show seismic stations. Green stars show a M 6.1 earthquake in 2008 (north) and a M 7.3 earthquake in 2011 (south) that were preceded by slow slip (18). (B and C) Temporal distribution of repeaters near Sanriku aligned by latitude (top) (see fig. S1 for vertical enlargement), magnitude-time plot of M ≥ 5 earthquakes (middle), and temporal change of slip rate inferred from repeaters (bottom) for offshore (B) and near-shore (C) areas off Sanriku shown in (A) (see fig. S3 for corresponding data for all other areas). Vertical lines show the times of the 1994 M 7.6 Sanriku-oki and the 2011 M 9 Tohoku-oki earthquakes. The number of M ≥ 5 events in offshore and near-shore areas is 194 and 68, respectively. The red curves in (B) and (C) are best-fit sinusoidal functions fit to the slip-rate time series with 3.09- and 2.72-year periods, respectively. Repeaters and M ≥ 5 events during the positive phase of the best-fitted sinusoid are shown by colored symbols, whereas those during the negative phase are shown by open symbols.

  • Fig. 3 Timing of repeaters, slow slip, and M ≥ 5 earthquakes.

    (A) Times of the repeaters (top panels) and repeater-inferred slip rates (bottom panel) in the offshore Sanriku area (Fig. 2B) around the times of the 1989 M 7.2 (red) and 1992 M 6.9 (blue) mainshocks. Slip rates during 10 days before and 30 days after the mainshocks are plotted using a causal data window stepped every 1 day. Light and deep colors for the circles indicate repeaters before and after the mainshocks, respectively. (B) Amplitude spectrum of the slip rate for the offshore Sanriku area (red line; the original slip-rate time series is shown in Fig. 2B). The horizontal dashed red line shows the average of the amplitude in a 1- to 9-year period range. Black, red, green, and blue circles show Schuster spectra (19) for the M ≥ 5 declustered earthquake catalogs for the time periods shown in the figure. The P values on the vertical axis give the probability of observing such a level of periodic variations in a catalog with a constant seismicity rate. (C) Magnitude-time plot of M ≥ 5 earthquakes in the offshore Sanriku area before the repeater analysis period (i.e., 1930 to 1983). The red curve is the same sinusoidal function as in Fig. 2B, extrapolated from the fitting period. The green and white stars show events during times of positive and negative amplitude of the extrapolated sinusoid, respectively. Green and blue lines show the time period used in Fig. 3B. Plots similar to Fig. 3, B and C, but for the near-shore Sanriku area are shown in fig. S5, A and B, respectively.

  • Fig. 4 Spatial distribution of degree of periodicity and dominant period estimated from the repeater data.

    The color intensity shows the degree of periodicity, and the colors show the dominant period for the periods from 1984 to 2011 (between 36.5° and 41.5°N) and from 1993 to 2011 (north of 41.5°N and south of 36.5°N). The periods indicated for each area represent the dominant peak in the amplitude spectrum of the slip-velocity variations inferred from repeaters for 0.4° (latitude) by 0.6° (longitude) spatial windows. Contours show slip areas for the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake (M 9.0) and other M 7 or larger earthquakes since 1930 (1113, 30). Colored circles show the dominant period of the on-land GPS gradient in plate motion parallel to the N105°E (Honshu) and N120°E (Hokkaido) directions (see fig. S13 for the spectrum of gradient time series in profile lines a to j that are used to compute the dominant periods).

Supplementary Materials

  • Periodic slow slip triggers megathrust zone earthquakes in northeastern Japan

    Naoki Uchida, Takeshi Iinuma, Robert M. Nadeau, Roland Bürgmann, Ryota Hino

    Materials/Methods, Supplementary Text, Tables, Figures, and/or References

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    • Materials and Methods
    • Figs. S1 to S14
    • Tables S2 to S4
    • References (31–42)
    Table S1
    The list of repeating earthquakes used in this study. The original data was reported by Uchida and Matsuzawa (2013) (10).

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