Elastic Properties of Subduction Zone Materials in the Large Shallow Slip Environment for the Tohoku 2011 Earthquake: Laboratory data from JFAST Core Samples

Friday, 19 December 2014
Tamara Jeppson and Harold J Tobin, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI, United States
The 11 March 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake (Mw=9.0) produced large displacements of ~50 meters near the Japan Trench. In order to understand earthquake propagation and slip stabilization in this environment, quantitative values of the real elastic properties of fault zones and their surrounding wall rock material is crucial. Because elastic and mechanical properties of faults and wallrocks are controlling factors in fault strength, earthquake generation and propagation, and slip stabilization, an understanding of these properties and their depth dependence is essential to understanding and accurately modeling earthquake rupture. In particular, quantitatively measured S-wave speeds, needed for estimation of elastic properties, are scarce in the literature. We report laboratory ultrasonic velocity measurements performed at elevated pressures, as well as the calculated dynamic elastic moduli, for samples of the rock surrounding the Tohoku earthquake principal fault zone recovered by drilling during IODP Expedition 343, Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (JFAST). We performed measurements on five samples of gray mudstone from the hanging wall and one sample of underthrust brown mudstone from the footwall. We find P- and S-wave velocities of 2.0 to 2.4 km/s and 0.7 to 1.0 km/s, respectively, at 5 MPa effective pressure. At the same effective pressure, the hanging wall samples have shear moduli ranging from 1.4 to 2.2 GPa and the footwall sample has a shear modulus of 1.0 GPa. While these values are perhaps not surprising for shallow, clay-rich subduction zone sediments, they are substantially lower than the 30 GPa commonly assumed for rigidity in earthquake rupture and propagation models [e.g., Ide et al., 1993; Liu and Rice, 2005; Loveless and Meade, 2011]. In order to better understand the elastic properties of shallow subduction zone sediments, our measurements from the Japan Trench are compared to similar shallow drill core samples from the Nankai Trough, Costa Rica, Cascadia, and Barbados ridge subduction zones. We find that shallow subduction zone sediments in general have similarly low rigidity. These data provide important ground-truth values that can be used to parameterize fault slip models addressing the problem of shallow, tsunamigenic propagation of megathrust earthquakes.