Ionospheric disturbances triggered by the 11 March 2011 M9.0 Tohoku earthquake



[1] An earthquake of magnitude 9.0 occurred near the east coast of Honshu (Tohoku area), Japan, producing overwhelming Earth surface motions and inducing devastating tsunamis, which then traveled into the ionosphere and significantly disturbed the electron density within it (hereafter referred to as seismotraveling ionospheric disturbances (STIDs)). The total electron content (TEC) derived from nationwide GPS receiving networks in Japan and Taiwan is employed to monitor STIDs triggered by seismic and tsunami waves of the Tohoku earthquake. The STIDs first appear as a disk-shaped TEC increase about 7 min after the earthquake occurrence centered at about 200 km east of the epicenter, near the west edge of the Japan Trench. Fast propagating disturbances related to Rayleigh waves quickly travel away from the epicenter along the main island of Japan with a speed of 2.3–3.3 km/s, accompanied by sequences of concentric circular TEC wavefronts and followed by circular ripples (close to a tsunami speed of about 720–800 km/h) that travel away from the STID center. These are the most remarkable STIDs ever observed where signatures of Rayleigh waves, tsunami waves, etc., simultaneously appear in the ionosphere.