New Analyses of The Great East Quake Shake Up Seismology, Point to Another Potential Quake

ADAPTED FROM MARK SIMONS ET AL., SCIENCE (2011)

All eyes are now on the southern portion of the length of fault that broke in the Tohoku quake. Neither historical quakes nor the Tohoku quake has broken the offshore, shallow portion of the fault there. And the Tohoku rupture transferred stress southward along the fault, abruptly increasing the stress there. As had been the case to the north, researchers can’t say for sure whether that portion of the fault (marked by the question mark) has been freely slipping without generating quakes or locked and building strain toward a quake.If the offshore southern portion is indeed stuck, Simons and colleagues see “the possibility of a sibling to the 2011 event” that could be “similar to what just occurred offshore,” but half as far from Tokyo. So researchers are anxious to find out whether the stress transferred southward from the 9 has accelerated slow slip on the fault and thus defused the threat of a quake. If the fault isn’t slipping, another quake would be in the works. Speed is of the essence: A magnitude-8.7 sibling quake followed the 2004 Indian Ocean megaquake by 3 months.

Read full text of article: SEISMOLOGY: New Work Reinforces Megaquake\’s Harsh Lessons in Geoscience Science 20 May 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6032 p. 911

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