Geomorphology and Tectonic Setting of the Sanriku Coast, Northeastern Japan, and Introduction of Recent Studies on the Formation of Alluvial Plains and Holocene Crustal Movements Along the Coast

  • Yuichi NiwaEmail author
  • Toshihiko Sugai


The 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake dramatically changed the coastal environment along the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan. In particular, coseismic subsidence of up to 1.3 m was recorded along the Sanriku Coast . However, well-preserved Middle to Late Pleistocene marine terraces along the northern Sanriku Coast have been interpreted to indicate uplift since the Late Quaternary. This discrepancy between long-term uplift and short-term subsidence has been attributed to coseismic uplift during an unidentified megathrust earthquake. To clarify the interplay of uplift and subsidence, we introduce the tectonic setting of the Sanriku Coast and recent studies on the geomorphology and geology along the coast, which focus on crustal movements during the Holocene along the southern Sanriku Coast. The results of recent studies indicate that, contrary to the previous view that the northern Sanriku Coast has experienced long-term uplift, the southern Sanriku Coast has been subsiding since the 10 ka (since the latest Pleistocene).


Alluvial plain Coastal geomorphology Holocene crustal movement Pacific coast of northeastern Japan Tectonic setting 



We thank Dr. Shinji Toda for providing guidance on the geomorphology and geology of the Sanriku coastal area , Dr. Yoshiaki Matsushima for assistance with the identification of paleo-environments of deposition based on the species of molluscan shells present in sediment cores , and Mr. Tsuyoshi Yamaichi for helping us to conduct sediment core analyses. This research was financially supported by a Grant of Research Project of International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Tohoku University, a Grant-in-aid from the Scientific Research Project (Nos. 26282078 and 26750106) of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and a Research Grant of Japan Geographic Data Center. We thank the Japan Association of Quaternary Research for permitting reprint of Figs. 2.9 and 2.10, the Association of Japanese Geographers Figs. 2.4 and 2.5, and Tokyo Geographical Society Figs. 2.3, 2.11, and 2.12.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Research Institute of Disaster ScienceTohoku UniversityAoba-kuJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Frontier SciencesThe University of TokyoKashiwaJapan

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