pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 142, Issue 1, pp 3–28 | Cite as

The 1957 great Aleutian earthquake

  • Jean M. Johnson
  • Yuichiro Tanioka
  • Larry J. Ruff
  • Kenji Satake
  • Hiroo Kanamori
  • Lynn R. Sykes


The 9 March 1957 Aleutian earthquake has been estimated as the third largest earthquake this century and has the longest aftershock zone of any earthquake ever recorded—1200 km. However, due to a lack of high-quality seismic data, the actual source parameters for this earthquake have been poorly determined. We have examined all the available waveform data to determine the seismic moment, rupture area, and slip distribution. These data include body, surface and tsunami waves. Using body waves, we have estimated the duration of significant moment release as 4 min. From surface wave analysis, we have determined that significant moment release occurred only in the western half of the aftershock zone and that the best estimate for the seismic moment is 50–100×1020 Nm. Using the tsunami waveforms, we estimated the source area of the 1957 tsunami by backward propagation. The tsunami source area is smaller than the aftershock zone and is about 850 km long. This does not include the Unalaska Island area in the eastern end of the aftershock zone, making this area a possible seismic gap and a possible site of a future large or great earthquake. We also inverted the tsunami waveforms for the slip distribution. Slip on the 1957 rupture zone was highest in the western half near the epicenter. Little slip occurred in the eastern half. The moment is estimated as 88×1020 Nm, orM w =8.6, making it the seventh largest earthquake during the period 1900 to 1993. We also compare the 1957 earthquake to the 1986 Andreanof Islands earthquake, which occurred within a segment of the 1957 rupture area. The 1986 earthquake represents a rerupturing of the major 1957 asperity.

Key words

Subduction zones Aleutian Arc tsunamis earthquake parameters 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean M. Johnson
    • 1
  • Yuichiro Tanioka
    • 1
  • Larry J. Ruff
    • 1
  • Kenji Satake
    • 1
  • Hiroo Kanamori
    • 2
  • Lynn R. Sykes
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Seismological LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA
  3. 3.Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Department of Geological SciencesColumbia UniversityPalisadesUSA

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