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Normal-faulting earthquakes beneath the outer slope of the Japan Trench after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake: Implications for the stress regime in the incoming Pacific plate

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Abstract

[1] After the 2011 Mw 9.1 Tohoku earthquake, numerous intraplate earthquakes occurred beneath the outer slope of the Japan Trench. Based on ocean bottom seismograph observations, these earthquakes occurred in the oceanic crust and uppermost mantle of the Pacific plate at depths shallower than about 40 km and had normal-faulting focal mechanisms at all depths. Before the 2011 earthquake, normal-faulting earthquakes beneath the outer trench slope occurred only at depths shallower than 20 km, whereas those at depths of around 40 km had reverse-faulting mechanisms. These observations suggest that the stress regime in the Pacific plate was changed by the 2011 earthquake. The tensional stresses that now extend to depths of about 40 km may play an important role not only in the occurrence of large normal-faulting earthquakes but also in hydration of the uppermost mantle of the incoming Pacific plate prior to the subduction.

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