Activated Very Low Frequency Earthquakes By the Slow Slip Events in the Ryukyu Subduction Zone

Friday, 19 December 2014
Mamoru Nakamura and Naoya Sunagawa, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan
The Ryukyu Trench (RT), where the Philippine Sea plate is subducting, has had no known thrust earthquakes with a Mw>8.0 in the last 300 years. However, the rupture source of the 1771 tsunami has been proposed as an Mw > 8.0 earthquake in the south RT. Based on the dating of tsunami boulders, it has been estimated that large tsunamis occur at intervals of 150–400 years in the south Ryukyu arc (RA) (Araoka et al., 2013), although they have not occurred for several thousand years in the central and northern Ryukyu areas (Goto et al., 2014).

To address the discrepancy between recent low moment releases by earthquakes and occurrence of paleo-tsunamis in the RT, we focus on the long-term activity of the very low frequency earthquakes (VLFEs), which are good indicators of the stress release in the shallow plate interface. VLFEs have been detected along the RT (Ando et al., 2012), which occur on the plate interface or at the accretionary prism.

We used broadband data from the F-net of NIED along the RT and from the IRIS network. We applied two filters to all the raw broadband seismograms: a 0.02–0.05 Hz band-pass filter and a 1 Hz high-pass filter. After identification of the low-frequency events from the band-pass-filtered seismograms, the local and teleseismic events were removed. Then we picked the arrival time of the maximum amplitude of the surface wave of the VLFEs and determined the epicenters.

VLFEs occurred on the RA side within 100 km from the trench axis along the RT. Distribution of the 6670 VLFEs from 2002 to 2013 could be divided to several clusters. Principal large clusters were located at 27.1°–29.0°N, 25.5°–26.6°N, and 122.1°–122.4°E (YA). 

We found that the VLFEs of the YA are modulated by repeating slow slip events (SSEs) which occur beneath south RA. The activity of the VLFEs increased to two times of its ordinary rate in 15 days after the onset of the SSEs. Activation of the VLFEs could be generated by low stress change of 0.02–20 kPa increase in Coulomb failure stress. The strain in the plate interface where the VLFEs occur frequently would be released by small change in stress. Cluster of the VLFEs is complementally to the historical tsunami source area and locked area. Continuous activity of VLFEs would release the stress patchily in the plate interface and give the constraint to the maximum size of large thrust earthquakes.