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Keywords:

  • frictional properties;
  • dynamic weakening;
  • Tohoku-Oki earthquake;
  • megathrust;
  • splay fault;
  • Coulomb wedge

[1] We analyze the mechanical properties needed to account for the large shallow slip during the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake and the activation of landward normal faulting within the forearc. We show that the morphology and internal structure of the forearc follows closely the prediction of the critical Coulomb wedge in horizontal compression, implying a high internal pore pressure ratio (λ=0.7+0.14/−0.48) and a low effective basal friction (inline image). We then show that the activation of the normal fault requires a lower effective basal friction beneath the outer wedge than beneath the inner wedge (μouter≤0.015), possibly due to transient dynamic weakening associated to the seismic rupture. Forearc normal faults could be considered as evidence for very efficient dynamic weakening along the megathrust and typify megathrust with high tsunamigenic potential.