Izvestiya, Physics of the Solid Earth

, Volume 50, Issue 2, pp 177–191 | Cite as

Comparative study of temporal variations in the earth’s gravity field using GRACE gravity models in the regions of three recent giant earthquakes

  • V. O. Mikhailov
  • I. Panet
  • M. Hayn
  • E. P. Timoshkina
  • S. BonvalotEmail author
  • V. Lyakhovsky
  • M. Diament
  • O. de Viron


Comparative analysis of coseismic and postseismic variations of the Earth’s gravity field is carried for the regions of three giant earthquakes (Andaman-Sumatra, December 26, 2004, magnitude M w = 9.1; Maule-Chile, February 27, 2010, M w = 8.8, and Tohoku-Oki, March 11, 2011, M w = 9.0) with the use of GRACE satellite data. Within the resolution of GRACE models, the coseismic changes of gravity caused by these seismic events manifest themselves by large negative anomalies located in the rear of the subduction zone. The real data are compared with the synthetic anomalies calculated from the rupture surface models based on different kinds of ground measurements. It is shown that the difference between the gravity anomalies corresponding to different rupture surface models exceeds the uncertainties of the GRACE data. There-fore, the coseismic gravity anomalies are at least suitable for rejecting part of the models that are equivalent in the ground data. Within the first few months after the Andaman-Sumatra earthquake, a positive gravity anomaly started to grow above the deep trench. This anomaly rapidly captured the area of the back-arc basin and largely compensated the negative coseismic anomaly. The processes of viscoelastic stress relaxation do not fully allow for these rapid changes of gravity. According to the calculations, even with a sufficiently low viscosity of the upper mantle, relaxation only covers about a half of the observed change of the field. In order to explain the remaining temporal variations, we suggested the process of downdip propagation of the coseismic rupture surface. The feasibility of such a process was supported by numerical simulations. The sum of the gravity anomalies caused by this process and the anomaly generated by the processes of viscoelastic relaxation accounts well for the observed changes of the gravity field in the region of the earthquake. The similar postseismic changes of gravity were also detected for the region of the Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Just as in the case discussed above, this earthquake was also followed by a rapid growth of a positive postseismic anomaly, which partially counterbalanced the negative coseismic anomaly. The time variations of the gravity field in the region of the Maule-Chile earthquake differ from the pattern of changes observed in the island arcs described above. The postseismic gravity variations are in this case concentrated in a narrower band above the deep trench and shelf, and they do not spread over the continental territory, where the negative coseismic anomaly is located. These discrepancies reflect the difference in the geodynamical settings of the studied earthquakes.


Gravity Field Solid Earth Rupture Surface Geoid Height Sumatra Earthquake 
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Copyright information

© Pleiades Publishing, Ltd. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. O. Mikhailov
    • 1
    • 2
  • I. Panet
    • 3
  • M. Hayn
    • 2
  • E. P. Timoshkina
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. Bonvalot
    • 4
    Email author
  • V. Lyakhovsky
    • 5
  • M. Diament
    • 2
  • O. de Viron
    • 2
  1. 1.Schmidt Institute of Physics of the EarthRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Sorbonne Paris Cité, Institut de Physique du Globe de ParisUniversité Paris DiderotParisFrance
  3. 3.Institut National de l’Information Geographique et Forestiere, Laboratoire LAREGUniversite Paris DiderotParis Cedex 13France
  4. 4.Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)Bureau Gravimétrique International (BGI)-GET (UMR5563 CNRS/IRD/UT3)ToulouseFrance
  5. 5.Geological Survey of IsraelJerusalemIsrael

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