Periodic slow slip triggers megathrust zone earthquakes in northeastern Japan

Naoki Uchida, Takeshi Iinuma, Robert M. Nadeau, Roland Bürgmann, Ryota Hino1

Science Magazine
January 29, 2016

Both aseismic and seismic slip accommodate relative motion across partially coupled plate-boundary faults. In northeastern Japan, aseismic slip occurs in the form of decelerating afterslip after large interplate earthquakes and as relatively steady slip on uncoupled areas of the subduction thrust. Here we report on a previously unrecognized quasi-periodic slow-slip behavior that is widespread in the megathrust zone. The repeat intervals of the slow slip range from 1 to 6 years and often coincide with or precede clusters of large [magnitude (M) ≥ 5] earthquakes, including the 2011 M 9 Tohoku-oki earthquake. These results suggest that inherently periodic slow-slip events result in periodic stress perturbations and modulate the occurrence time of larger earthquakes. The periodicity in the slow-slip rate has the potential to help refine time-dependent earthquake forecasts.


Featured Fellows

Robert M. Nadeau

Berkeley Seismological Lab
BIDS Alum – Data Science Fellow