Sources of shaking and flooding during the Tohoku-Oki earthquake: A mixture of rupture styles

Shengji Wei, Robert Graves, Don Helmberger, Jean Philippe Avouac, Junle Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Modeling strong ground motions from great subduction zone earthquakes is one of the great challenges of computational seismology. To separate the rupture characteristics from complexities caused by 3D sub-surface geology requires an extraordinary data set such as provided by the recent Mw9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. Here we combine deterministic inversion and dynamically guided forward simulation methods to model over one thousand high-rate GPS and strong motion observations from 0 to 0.25. Hz across the entire Honshu Island. Our results display distinct styles of rupture with a deeper generic interplate event (~Mw8.5) transitioning to a shallow tsunamigenic earthquake (~Mw9.0) at about 25. km depth in a process driven by a strong dynamic weakening mechanism, possibly thermal pressurization. This source model predicts many important features of the broad set of seismic, geodetic and seafloor observations providing a major advance in our understanding of such great natural hazards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jun 2012


  • Finite fault
  • High-rate GPS
  • Strong motion
  • Tohoku-Oki earthquake
  • Tsunami


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