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A further source of Tokyo earthquakes and Pacific Ocean tsunamis

Abstract

Earthquake hazard assessments for the Tokyo Region are complicated by the trench–trench triple junction where the oceanic Philippine Sea Plate not only underthrusts a continental plate but is also being subducted by the Pacific Plate. Great thrust earthquakes and associated tsunamis are historically recognized hazards from the Continental/Philippine Sea (Sagami Trough) and Continental/Pacific (Japan Trench) plate boundaries but not from the Philippine Sea/Pacific (Izu–Bonin Trench) boundary alone. Here we employed a series of historical and hypothetical rupture models to explain the widespread distribution of geological evidence for an unusually large tsunami found along 50 km of coastline east of Tokyo. Dating to about 1,000 years ago, this inferred tsunami predates local written history by several hundred years. We found that the inland extent of its sand sheet is best explained, in computer simulations, by displacement on one of the three plate boundaries offshore of the Boso Peninsula, which corresponds to the triple junction. The minimum magnitude scenario capable of generating the inland extent of inundation involves displacement along the Philippine Sea/Pacific boundary megathrust. This plate-boundary fault adds another potential source for earthquakes in the Tokyo Region and tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean.

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Fig. 1: Location of the triple junction and associated historical and geological evidence for earthquakes along the three plate boundaries.
Fig. 2: Stratigraphic and modelled evidence for a large tsunami about 1,000 years ago at Hasunuma in central Kujukuri.

Data availability

All data integral to the stated conclusions are presented within the paper, extended data and Supplementary Information. Data tables can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5056915.

Code availability

Code for the Bayesian model can be accessed at https://github.com/andrewcparnell/sand_ages_pilarczyk.

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Acknowledgements

We thank B. Atwater, K. Satake and K. Ioki for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This work is a contribution to IGCP Project 725, was supported by the Geological Survey of Japan, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and in part by grants awarded to J.E.P. (National Science Foundation (EAR-1303881 and 1624612), Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), Canada Research Chair (CRC) program and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) International Research Fellows (Geological Survey of Japan, AIST, PE14038)), A.C.P. (Science Foundation Ireland Career Development Award (17/CDA/4695), Investigator Award (16/IA/4520), Marine Research Programme funded by the Irish Government, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (Grant-Aid Agreement no. PBA/CC/18/01), European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 818144 and SFI Research Centre (16/RC/3872 and 12/RC/2289_P2)) and B.P.H. (Singapore Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund (MOE2019-T3-1-004), National Research Foundation Singapore and Singapore Ministry of Education, under the Research Centers of Excellence initiative). This work is Earth Observatory of Singapore contribution 382. CT scanning (Fig. ED2I) was performed under the cooperative research programme of the Center for Advanced Marine Core Research (CMCR), Kochi University (no. 17A008). C.H.V. publishes with the permission of the Executive Director British Geological Survey.

Author information

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Contributions

This project was led by Y. Sawai and J.E.P. J.E.P. led the writing of the main text, with contributions from the other authors. Y. Sawai led the fieldwork and prepared the figures and tables. Y.N. ran the simulated tsunami inundation models. T.T., Y. Sawai and Y.N. reconstructed the palaeoshoreline. J.E.P. conducted the microfossil analysis, C.H.V. and B.P.H. assisted with the stratigraphic interpretations, Y. Sawai, Y. Shimada and K.T. selected samples for radiocarbon dating and A.C.P. conducted the Bayesian statistical analyses and generated an age-depth model. Y. Sawai, J.E.P., Y.N., T.T., K.T., D.M., T.S., O.F., M.S., Y. Shimada and T.D. were involved in the fieldwork.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jessica E. Pilarczyk.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Primary Handling editors: Stefan Lachowycz, Rebecca Neely, and Melissa Plail, in collaboration with the Nature Geoscience team. Nature Geoscience thanks Takuya Nishimura and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Evidence for large-scale tsunami inundation at Sosa (north Kujukuri).

a, Modelled inundation at Kujukuri relative to the position of sand B. Index map, showing geomorphology, position of tsunami deposits (sand B), and inundation area estimated from model 10 for all three field sites in Sosa, Hasunuma, and Ichinomiya (Supplementary Fig. 2). b, Modelled inundation at Sosa (north Kujukuri) relative to the position of sand B. Core locations at Sosa relative to inundation resulting from models 1 (red line), 5 (yellow shaded area), 9 (white shaded area), and 10 (sky blue shaded area). Sky blue areas bounded by a dashed line represent the location of past reservoirs or ponds that are evident in historical maps from the Meiji era (c. 1868–1922 CE). Photograph from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI; https://maps.gsi.go.jp/development/ichiran.html). c, Stratigraphic evidence for a tsunami at Sosa (north Kujukuri). Photograph and stratigraphic log of core shown in b.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Evidence for large-scale tsunami inundation at Hasunuma (central Kujukuri).

a, Modelled inundation at Kujukuri relative to the position of sand B. Index map, showing geomorphology, position of tsunami deposits (sand B), and inundation area estimated from model 10 for all three field sites in Sosa, Hasunuma, and Ichinomiya (Supplementary Fig. 2). b, Modelled inundation at Hasunuma (central Kujukuri) relative to the position of sand B. Core locations at Hasunuma relative to inundation resulting from models 1 (red line), 5 (yellow shaded area), 9 (white shaded area), and 10 (sky blue shaded area). Sky blue areas bounded by a dashed line represent the location of past reservoirs or ponds that are evident in historical maps from the Meiji era (c. 1868–1922 CE). Photograph from Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI; https://maps.gsi.go.jp/development/ichiran.html). c–f Stratigraphic evidence for two tsunamis at Hasunuma (central Kujukuri). Detailed cross section of stratigraphy from transect shown in b. g-h, Stratigraphic evidence for two tsunamis at Hasunuma (central Kujukuri). Photograph and stratigraphic log of core shown in c. i, Stratigraphic evidence for two tsunamis at Hasunuma (central Kujukuri). Photograph, stratigraphic log, and CT image of core shown in b.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Evidence for large-scale tsunami inundation at Ichinomiya (south Kujukuri).

a, Modelled inundation at Kujukuri relative to the position of sand B. Index map, showing geomorphology, position of tsunami deposits (sand B), and inundation area estimated from model 10 for all three field sites in Sosa, Hasunuma, and Ichinomiya (Supplementary Fig. 2). b, Modelled inundation at Ichinomiya (south Kujukuri) relative to the position of sand B. Core locations at Ichinomiya relative to inundation resulting from models 1 (red line), 5 (yellow shaded area), 9 (white shaded area), and 10 (sky blue shaded area). Sky blue areas bounded by a dashed line represent the location of past reservoirs or ponds that are evident in historical maps from the Meiji era (c. 1868–1922 CE). Photograph from Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI; https://maps.gsi.go.jp/development/ichiran.html). c, Stratigraphic evidence for two tsunamis at Ichinomiya (south Kujukuri). Detailed cross section of stratigraphy from transect shown in b. d, Stratigraphic evidence for up to three tsunamis at Ichinomiya (south Kujukuri). Photograph and stratigraphic log of core shown in b, c.

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Pilarczyk, J.E., Sawai, Y., Namegaya, Y. et al. A further source of Tokyo earthquakes and Pacific Ocean tsunamis. Nat. Geosci. 14, 796–800 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00812-2

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