Evidence of Viscoelastic Deformation following the 2011 Tohoku-oki Earthquake Revealed from Seafloor Geodetic Observation

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Shun-ichi Watanabe1, Mariko Sato1, Masayuki Fujita1, Tadashi Ishikawa1, Yusuke Yokota1, Naoto Ujihara1 and Akira Asada2, (1)Japan Coast Guard, Tokyo, Japan, (2)Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
The great Tohoku-oki earthquake (M9.0) occurred on 11th March, 2011 along the Japan Trench, off the Pacific coast of eastern Japan. The source region spreads over an area with a length of 500 km and a width of 200 km, almost all part of which is beneath the seafloor. We, the group of Japan Coast Guard (JCG), have continued repeated GPS-acoustic seafloor positioning after the Tohoku-oki earthquake at six seafloor sites in the offshore source region, the results of which are expected to provide information leading to better understandings of postseismic processes.

In contrast to the coastal GNSS sites where trenchward-upward movements were reported, the offshore sites above the main rupture zone in the northern part of the source region exhibit landward displacements of tens of centimeters with significant subsidence from more than three years of repeated observations. At the sites above around the edge of the main rupture zone, smaller amount of trench-normal movements were found. Although the terrestrial movements were reasonably interpreted by afterslip beneath the coastal area, these offshore results are rather consistent with effects predicted from viscoelastic relaxation in the upper mantle, providing definitive evidence of its occurrence. On the other hand, a site in the southern part of the source region with relatively small coseismic slips shows not only trenchward movements with logarithmical decay with time but also significant subsidence, which imply superposition of effects from viscoelastic relaxation and afterslip.

In this presentation, we report our latest observation results and discuss postseismic movements on the seafloor just above the source region for more than three years after the earthquake.