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Interplate seismogenic zones along the Kuril–Japan trench inferred from GPS data inversion


In the subduction zones around Japan, where four plates interact with one another, large earthquakes have occurred repeatedly1. These interplate earthquakes are part of the process of tectonic stress accumulation and release that is driven by relative plate motion2,3,4. Stress accumulation between earthquakes results from slip deficit (slip that is insufficient to fully accommodate plate movement). For the prediction of large earthquakes, it is therefore important to monitor the distribution of slip deficit on plate interfaces. Here we apply an inversion method based on Bayesian modelling (using direct and indirect prior information on the magnitude and distribution of fault slip5) to horizontal and vertical velocities from global positioning system data. For the seismically calm period between 1996 and 2000, we obtain a precise distribution of slip-deficit rates on the interface between the North American and Pacific plates around Japan, which reveals a trench-parallel belt of slip deficit with six peaks in the depth range of 10–40 km. These peaks agree with the source regions of past large interplate earthquakes along the Kuril–Japan trench. We conclude that the slip-deficit zones identified with our method are potential source regions of large earthquakes.

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Figure 1: Plate interface geometry in and around Japan.
Figure 2: Interseismic GPS horizontal and vertical velocity data.
Figure 3: Inverted slip-deficit rate distribution.
Figure 4: Comparison of slip-deficit zones and tsunami source regions.


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We thank Roland Bürgmann for his useful suggestion to improve the manuscript. Computation of viscoelastic slip-response functions was carried out on the Earth Simulator at the Earth Simulator Center, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

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Correspondence to Chihiro Hashimoto.

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Hashimoto, C., Noda, A., Sagiya, T. et al. Interplate seismogenic zones along the Kuril–Japan trench inferred from GPS data inversion. Nature Geosci 2, 141–144 (2009).

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