TERRAPUB Earth, Planets and Space

Earth Planets Space, Vol. 63 (No. 7), pp. 529-534, 2011


Rapid source characterization of the 2011 Mw 9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake

Gavin P. Hayes1,2

1U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center, Golden, CO, USA
2Synergetics Inc., Fort Collins, CO, USA

(Received April 8, 2011; Revised May 12, 2011; Accepted May 15, 2011; Online published September 27, 2011)

Abstract: On March 11th, 2011, a moment magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of northeast Honshu, Japan, generating what may well turn out to be the most costly natural disaster ever. In the hours following the event, the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center led a rapid response to characterize the earthquake in terms of its location, size, faulting source, shaking and slip distributions, and population exposure, in order to place the disaster in a framework necessary for timely humanitarian response. As part of this effort, fast finite-fault inversions using globally distributed body- and surface-wave data were used to estimate the slip distribution of the earthquake rupture. Models generated within 7 hours of the earthquake origin time indicated that the event ruptured a fault up to 300 km long, roughly centered on the earthquake hypocenter, and involved peak slips of 20 m or more. Updates since this preliminary solution improve the details of this inversion solution and thus our understanding of the rupture process. However, significant observations such as the up-dip nature of rupture propagation and the along-strike length of faulting did not significantly change, demonstrating the usefulness of rapid source characterization for understanding the first order characteristics of major earthquakes.
Key words: Great earthquake, earthquake rupture processes, 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake, source inversion.

Corresponding author E-mail: ghayes@usgs.gov

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