Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 171, Issue 12, pp 3241–3255 | Cite as

Seismic Regime in the Vicinity of the 2011 Tohoku Mega Earthquake (Japan, M w = 9)

  • M. V. Rodkin
  • I. N. TikhonovEmail author


The 2011 Tohoku mega earthquake (M w = 9) is unique due to a combination of its large magnitude and the high level of detail of regional seismic data. The authors analyzed the seismic regime in the vicinity of this event using data from the Japan Meteorological Agency catalog and world databases. It was shown that a regional decrease in b-value and of the number of main shocks took place in the 6–7 years prior to the Tohoku mega earthquake. The space–time area of such changes coincided with the development of precursor effects in this area, as revealed by Lyubushin (Geofiz Prots Biosfera 10:9–35, 2011) from the analysis of microseisms recorded by the broadband seismic network F-net in Japan. The combination of episodes of growth in the number of earthquakes, accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the b-value and average depth of the earthquakes, was observed for the foreshock and aftershock sequences of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Some of these anomalies were similar to those observed (also post factum) by Katsumata (Earth Planets Space 63:709–712, 2011), Nanjo et al. (Geophys Res Lett 39, 2012), and Huang and Ding (Bull Seismol Soc Am 102:1878–1883, 2012), whereas others were not described before. The correlation of the periods of growth in seismic activity with the decrease of the average depth of earthquakes can be explained by the growth of fluid activity and the tendency of a penetration of low density fluids into the upper horizons of the lithosphere. The unexpectedly strong Tohoku mega earthquake with a rather small rupture area caused an unexpectedly high tsunami wave. From here it seems plausible that M9+ earthquakes with a large tsunami could occur in other subduction zones where such cases were suggested before to be impossible.


Japan region earthquake catalog seismic regime mega earthquake vicinity of mega earthquake precursor effects aftershock sequence 



The authors are grateful to the Japan Meteorological Agency for providing the seismic catalog data. We would like to thank Dr. Alexei Ivashchenko (Institute Oceanology, RAS, Moscow) and Dr. Taimi Mulder (Pacific Geoscience Centre, Sidney, BC, Canada) for their helpful comments and suggestions that significantly improved this paper. We are also extremely grateful to Dr. Mulder for her tremendous editorial work in approving our English. We thank Dr. A. Loskutov for his help in preparing Fig. 9. M.V. Rodkin was partly supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project 11-05-00663.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Earthquake Prediction Theory and Mathematical Geophysics, RASMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Institute of Marine Geology and Geophysics, FEB RASYuzhno-SakhalinskRussia

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