Source Process of the 2011 Off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku Earthquake

  • Kimiyuki Asano
  • Haruko Sekiguchi
  • Tomotaka Iwata
  • Wataru Suzuki
  • Shin Aoi
  • Takashi Kunugi
Part of the Natural Disaster Science and Mitigation Engineering: DPRI reports book series (NADISME)


The kinematic source process of the 2011 Off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku earthquake is studied using strong motion data both in low- and high-frequency ranges. The slip distribution is estimated by the waveform inversion analysis using velocity waveforms in the frequency range from 0.01 to 0.125 Hz at strong motion stations along the Pacific coast. The strong motion generation area (SMGA) is estimated by the strong ground motion simulation in 0.1–10 Hz using the empirical Green’s function method. The slip distribution is characterized by a large asperity with peak slip of 48 m which is imaged in the shallower portion of the source fault near the Japan Trench. Four SMGAs are identified in the deeper portion of the source fault. Unlike the past M7–8 subduction-zone plate-boundary events, the SMGAs and the asperity seem to be complementary in space. But the rupture time of each SMGA matches the timing of slip in each area. The total size of SMGAs is much smaller than the asperity area. This event coincides with empirical scaling relationships between total rupture area, asperity area, SMGA, and its seismic moment proposed for subduction-zone plate-boundary earthquakes by previous papers although the asperity abstracted for this event may have different nature from those of past smaller earthquakes.


Relationship between slip distribution and strong motion generation area Scaling relationship Source process of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake Strong motion data Strong motion generation area 



The strong motion data of K-NET, KiK-net, and JMA are used in this study. The digital data of the geometry of the Pacific plate is compiled and provided via the Internet by Dr. Fuyuki Hirose at the Meteorological Research Institute of JMA. Most of figures were produced by using the Generic Mapping Tools (Wessel and Smith 1998).


  1. Ammon CJ, Ji C, Thio H-K, Robinson D, Ni S, Hjorleifsdottir V, Kanamori H, Lay T, Das S, Helmberger DV, Ichinose G, Polet J, Wald D (2005) Rupture process of the great 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake. Science 308(5725):1133–1139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ammon CJ, Lay T, Kanamori H, Cleveland M (2011) A rupture model of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake. Earth Planets Space 63(7):693–696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aoi S, Kunugi T, Fujiwara H (2004) Strong-motion seismograph network operated by NIED: K-NET and KiK-net. J Jpn Assoc Earthq Eng 4(3):65–74Google Scholar
  4. Aoi S, Kunugi T, Nakamura H, Fujiwara H (2011) Deployment of new strong motion seismographs of K-NET and KiK-net. In: Akkar S et al (eds) Earthquake data in engineering seismology. Geotechnical, Geological and Earthquake Engineering 14. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 167–186Google Scholar
  5. Asano K, Iwata T (2012) Source model for strong ground motion in 0.1–10 Hz during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Earth Planets Space 64(12):1111–1123Google Scholar
  6. Bouchon M (1981) A simple method to calculate Green’s function for elastic layered media. Bull Seismol Soc Am 71(4):959–971Google Scholar
  7. Eshelby JD (1957) The determination of the elastic field of an ellipsoidal inclusion, and related problems. Proc Roy Soc A 241(1226):376–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fujiwara H, Kawai S, Aoi S, Morikawa N, Senna S, Kudo N, Ooi M, Hao K, Hayakawa Y, Toyama N, Matsuyama H, Iwamoto K, Suzuki H, Liu Y (2009) A study on subsurface structure model for deep sedimentary layers of Japan for strong-motion evaluation. Technical Note of the NIED 337, DVD-ROM (in Japanese)Google Scholar
  9. Hartzell SH, Heaton TH (1983) Inversion of strong ground motion and teleseismic waveform data for the fault rupture history of the 1979 Imperial Valley, California, earthquake. Bull Seismol Soc Am 73(6A):1553–1583Google Scholar
  10. Hasegawa A, Horiuchi S, Umino N (1994) Seismic structure of the northeastern Japan convergent margin: a synthesis. J Geophys Res 99(11):22,295–22,311Google Scholar
  11. Hayes GP (2011) Rapid source characterization of the 2011 Mw9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake. Earth Planets Space 63(7):529–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Honda R, Yukutake Y, Ito H, Harada M, Aketagawa T, Yoshida A, Sakai S, Nakagawa S, Hirata N, Obara K, Kimura H (2011) A complex rupture image of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake revealed by the MeSO-net. Earth Planets Space 63(7):583–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hoshiba M, Iwakiri K, Hayashimoto N, Shimoyama T, Hirano K, Yamaya Y, Ishigaki Y, Kikuta H (2011) Outline of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake. Earth Planets Space 63(7):547–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ide S (2001) Complex source processes and the interaction of moderate earthquakes during the earthquake swarm in the Hida-Mountains, Japan, 1998. Tectonophysics 334(1):35–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ide S, Takeo M, Yoshida Y (1996) Source process of the 1995 Kobe earthquake: determination of spatio-temporal slip distribution by Bayesian modeling. Bull Seismol Soc Am 86(3):547–566Google Scholar
  16. Ide S, Baltay A, Beroza GC (2011) Shallow dynamic overshoot and energetic deep rupture in the 2011 Mw9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Science 332(6036):1426–1429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Irikura K (1986) Prediction of strong acceleration motions using empirical Green’s function. In: Proceedings of the 7th Japan earthquake engineering symposium, Tokyo, pp 151–156Google Scholar
  18. Ishii M (2011) High-frequency rupture properties of the Mw9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake. Earth Planets Space 63(7):609–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Iwata T, Asano K (2011) Characterization of the heterogeneous source model of intraslab earthquakes toward strong ground motion prediction. Pure Appl Geophys 168(1–2):117–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ji C, Wald D, Helmberger DV (2002) Source description of the 1999 Hector Mine, California, earthquake, part I: Wavelet domain inversion theory and resolution analysis. Bull Seismol Soc Am 92(4):1192–1207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kamae K, Kawabe H (2004) Source model composed of asperities for the 2003 Tokachi-oki, Japan, earthquake (MJMA = 8.0) estimated by the empirical Green’s function method. Earth Planets Space 56(3):323–327Google Scholar
  22. Kennett BLN, Kerry NJ (1979) Seismic waves in a stratified half space. Geophys J Roy Astr Soc 57(3):557–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kikuchi M, Kanamori H (2003) Note on teleseismic body-wave inversion program.
  24. Kiser E, Ishii M (2012) The March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake and cascading failure of the plate interface. Geophys Res Lett 39:L00G25. doi: 10.1029/2012GL051170 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Koketsu K, Yokota Y, Nishimura N, Yagi Y, Miyazaki S, Satake K, Fujii Y, Miyake H, Sakai S, Yamanaka Y, Okada T (2011) A unified source model for the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Earth Planet Sci Lett 310(3–4):480–487CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Koper KD, Hutko AR, Lay T, Ammon CJ, Kanamori H (2011) Frequency-dependent rupture process of the 2011 Mw9.0 Tohoku earthquake: comparison of short-period P wave backprojection images and broadband seismic rupture models. Earth Planets Space 63(7):599–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kunugi T, Aoi S, Suzuki W, Nakamura H, Morikawa N, Fujiwara H (2012) Strong motions of the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Natural Disaster Research Report, NIED 48:63–72 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  28. Kurahashi S, Irikura K (2011) Source model for generating strong ground motions during the 2011 off Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake. Earth Planets Space 63(7):571–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lawson CL, Hanson RJ (1974) Solving least squares problems. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 340 ppGoogle Scholar
  30. Lay T, Ammon CJ, Kanamori H, Xue L, Kim MJ (2011) Possible large near-trench slip during the 2011 Mw9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake. Earth Planets Space 63(7): 687–692CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lay T, Kanamori H, Ammon CJ, Koper KD, Hutko AR, Ye L, Yue H, Rushing TM (2012) Depth-varying rupture properties of subduction zone megathrust earthquakes. J Geophys Res 117(B4):B04311. doi: 10.1029/2011JB009133 Google Scholar
  32. Lee S-J, Ma K-F, Chen H-W (2006) Three-dimensional dense strong motion waveform inversion for the rupture process of the 1999 Chi-Chi, Taiwan, earthquake. J Geophys Res 111(B11):B11308. doi: 10.1029/2005JB004097 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lee S-J, Huang B-S, Ando M, Chiu H-C, Wang J-H (2011) Evidence of large scale repeating slip during the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Geophys Res Lett 38(19):L19306. doi: 10.1029/2011GL049580 Google Scholar
  34. Meng L, Inbal A, Ampuero J-P (2011) A window into the complexity of the dynamic rupture of the 2011 Mw9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Geophys Res Lett 38:L00G07. doi: 10.1029/2011GL048118 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miyahara S, Sasatani T (2004) Estimation of source process of the 1994 Sanriku Haruka-oki earthquake using empirical Green’s function method. Geophys Bull Hokkaido Univ 67:197–212 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  36. Miyake H, Iwata T, Irikura K (1999) Strong ground motion simulation and source modeling of the Kagoshima-ken Hokuseibu earthquakes of March 26 (MJMA 6.5) and May 13 (MJMA 6.3), 1997, using empirical Green’s function method. Zisin 2 (J Seism Soc Jpn) 51(4):431–442 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  37. Miyake H, Iwata T, Irikura K (2003) Source characterization for broadband ground-motion simulation: kinematic heterogeneous source model and strong motion generation area. Bull Seismol Soc Am 93(6):2531–2545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Murotani S, Miyake H, Koketsu K (2008) Scaling of characterized slip models for plate-boundary earthquakes. Earth Planets Space 60(9):987–991Google Scholar
  39. Nakajima J, Hasegawa A (2006) Anomalous low-velocity zone and linear alignment of seismicity along it in the subducted Pacific slab beneath Kanto, Japan: reactivation of subducted fracture zone? Geophys Res Lett 33(16):L16309. doi: 10.1029/2006GL026773 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nakajima J, Hirose F, Hasegawa A (2009) Seismotectonics beneath the Tokyo metropolitan area, Japan: effect of slab-slab contact and overlap on seismicity. J Geophys Res 114(B8):B08309. doi: 10.1029/2008JB006101 Google Scholar
  41. Olson AH, Aspel RJ (1982) Finite faults and inverse theory with applications to the 1979 Imperial Valley earthquake. Bull Seismol Soc Am 72(6A):1969–2001Google Scholar
  42. Roten D, Miyake H, Koketsu K (2012) A Rayleigh wave back-projection method applied to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Geophys Res Lett 39(2):L02302. doi: 10.1029/2011GL050183 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Satoh T, Kawase H, Sato T (1997) Statistical spectral model of earthquakes in the eastern Tohoku district, Japan, based on the surface and borehole records observed in Sendai. Bull Seismol Soc Am 87(2):446–462Google Scholar
  44. Sekiguchi H, Irikura K, Iwata T (2000) Fault geometry at the rupture termination of the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu earthquake. Bull Seismol Soc Am 90(1):117–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sekiguchi H, Irikura K, Iwata T (2002) Source inversion for estimating the continuous slip distribution on a fault—introduction of Green's functions convolved with a correction function to give moving dislocation effects in subfaults. Geophys J Int 150(2):377–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shao G, Xi L, Ji C, Maeda T (2011) Focal mechanism and slip history of 2011 Mw9.1 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake, constrained with teleseismic body and surface waves. Earth Planets Space 63(7):559–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Somerville PG, Irikura K, Graves R, Sawada S, Wald D, Abrahamson N, Iwasaki Y, Kagawa T, Smith N, Kowada A (1999) Characterizing crustal earthquake slip models for the prediction of strong ground motion. Seismol Res Lett 70(1):59–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Suzuki W (2008) Estimation of broadband source process based on strong motion modeling. Ph.D Thesis, Kyoto University, 130 ppGoogle Scholar
  49. Suzuki W, Iwata T (2005) Source characteristics of interplate earthquakes in northeast Japan inferred from the analysis of broadband strong-motion records. Eos Trans AGU 86(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract S43A-1040Google Scholar
  50. Suzuki W, Iwata T (2007) Source model of the 2005 Miyagi-oki, Japan, earthquake estimated from broadband strong motions. Earth Planets Space 59(11):1155–1171Google Scholar
  51. Suzuki W, Aoi S, Sekiguchi H, Kunugi T (2011) Rupture process of the 2011 Tohoku-Oki mega-thrust earthquake (M9.0) inverted from strong-motion data. Geophys Res Lett 38:L00G16. doi: 10.1029/2011GL049136 Google Scholar
  52. Takiguchi M, Asano K, Iwata T (2011) The comparison of source models of repeating subduction-zone earthquakes estimated using broadband strong motion records −1982 and 2008 Ibaraki-ken-oki M7 earthquakes–. Zisin 2 (J Seismol Soc Japan) 63(4):223–242 (in Japanese with English abstract)Google Scholar
  53. Wang D, Mori J (2011) Rupture process of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake (Mw9.0) as imaged with back-projection of teleseismic P-waves. Earth Planets Space 63(7):603–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wessel P, Smith WHF (1998) New, improved version of generic mapping tools released. Eos Trans AGU 79(47):579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yagi Y, Fukahata Y (2011a) Rupture process of the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake and absolute elastic strain release. Geophys Res Lett 38(19):L19307. doi: 10.1029/2011GL048701 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yagi Y, Fukahata Y (2011b) Introduction of uncertainty of Green’s function into waveform inversion for seismic source process. Geophys J Int 186(2):711–720CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Yokota Y, Koketsu K, Fujii Y, Satake K, Sakai S, Shinohara M, Kanazawa T (2011) Joint inversion of strong motion, teleseismic, geodetic, and tsunami datasets for the rupture process of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Geophys Res Lett 38:L00G21. doi: 10.1029/2011GL050098 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Yoshida S, Koketsu K, Shibazaki B, Sagiya T, Kato T, Yoshida Y (1996) Joint inversion of the near- and far-field waveforms and geodetic data for the rupture process of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. J Phys Earth 44(5):437–454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yoshida K, Miyakoshi K, Irikura K (2011a) Source process of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake inferred from waveform inversion with long-period strong-motion records. Earth Planets Space 63(7):577–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yoshida Y, Ueno H, Muto D, Aoki S (2011b) Source process of the 2011 Off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake with the combination of teleseismic and strong motion data. Earth Planets Space 63(7):565–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yue H, Lay T (2011) Inversion of high-rate (1 sps) GPS data for rupture process of the 11 March 2011 Tohoku earthquake (Mw9.1). Geophys Res Lett 38:L00G09. doi: 10.1029/2011GL048700 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zhang H, Ge Z, Ding L (2011) Three sub-events composing the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake (Mw9.0) inferred from rupture imaging by back-projecting teleseismic P waves. Earth Planets Space 63(7):595–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zhao D, Hunag Z, Umino N, Hasegawa A, Kanamori H (2011) Structural heterogeneity in the megathrust zone and mechanism of the 2011 Tohoku-oki Earthquake (Mw9.0). Geophys Res Lett 38(17):L17308. doi: 10.1029/2011GL048408

Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimiyuki Asano
    • 1
  • Haruko Sekiguchi
    • 1
  • Tomotaka Iwata
    • 1
  • Wataru Suzuki
    • 2
  • Shin Aoi
    • 2
  • Takashi Kunugi
    • 2
  1. 1.Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI)Kyoto UniversityUjiJapan
  2. 2.National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention (NIED)TsukubaJapan

Personalised recommendations