Widespread seismicity excitation throughout central Japan following the 2011 M=9.0 Tohoku earthquake and its interpretation by Coulomb stress transfer Academic Article uri icon


  • We report on a broad and unprecedented increase in seismicity rate following the M=9.0 Tohoku mainshock for M ? 2 earthquakes over inland Japan, parts of the Japan Sea and Izu islands, at distances of up to 425 km from the locus of high (?15 m) seismic slip on the megathrust. Such an increase was not seen for the 2004 M=9.1 Sumatra or 2010 M=8.8 Chile earthquakes, but they lacked the seismic networks necessary to detect such small events. Here we explore the possibility that the rate changes are the product of static Coulomb stress transfer to small faults. We use the nodal planes of M ? 3.5 earthquakes as proxies for such small active faults, and find that of fifteen regions averaging ?80 by 80 km in size, 11 show a positive association between calculated stress changes and the observed seismicity rate change, 3 show a negative correlation, and for one the changes are too small to assess. This work demonstrates that seismicity can turn on in the nominal stress shadow of a mainshock as long as small geometrically diverse active faults exist there, which is likely quite common.

publication date

  • April 2011