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Geophysical Research Letters


Imaging the extent to which the rupture areas of great earthquakes coincide with regions of pre-seismic interplate coupling is central to understanding patterns of strain accumulation and release through the earthquake cycle. Both geodetic and seismic estimates of the coseismic rupture extent for the March 11, 2011 MW = 8.9–9.0 earthquake Tohoku-oki earthquake may be spatially correlated (0.26 ± 0.05 to 0.82 ± 0.05) with a region estimated to be partially to fully coupled in the interseismic period preceding the earthquake, though there is substantial variation in the estimated distribution and magnitude of coseismic slip. The ∼400 km-long region estimated to have slipped ≥4 m corresponds to an area of the subduction zone interface that was coupled at ≥30% of long-term plate convergence rate, with peak slip near a region coupled ≥80%. The northern termination of rupture is collocated with a region of relatively low (<20%) interseismic coupling near the epicenter of the 1994 MW = 7.6 Sanriku-oki earthquake, and near a region of potential long-term low coupling or ongoing slow slip. Slip on the subduction interface beneath the coastline (40–50 km depth) is best constrained by the land-based GPS data and least constrained on the shallowest portion of the plate interface due to the ∼230 km distance between geodetic observations and the Japan trench.








Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union

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