Superconducting Gravimeters Detect Gravity Fluctuations Induced by Mw 5.7 Earthquake Along South Pacific Rise Few Hours Before the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake


Gravity changes sometimes appear before a big earthquake. To determine the possible sources is important for recognizing the mechanism and further geodynamic studies. During the first two hours on March 11 before the Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake, the non-tidal gravity time series of superconducting gravimeters worldwide showed low-frequency (< 0.10 Hz) fluctuations with amplitude of ~1 to 4 × 10-8 ms-2 lasting ~10 - 20 minutes. Through comparing global seismicity with the arrival times of seismic waves, we find that the fluctuations were induced by the Mw 5.7 earthquake that occurred at 0:14:54.68 at (53.27°S, 118.18°W) along the eastern South Pacific Rise. Several body waves such as P, S are clearly recorded in the station with ~400 km distance to the hypocenter. The fluctuations are in response to the waves that propagate with a velocity of about 4 km s-1. Their amplitudes are proportional to the inverse of the epicentral distances even though the fluctuations of European sites were overlapped with waves associated with a smaller, i.e., Mw 2.6, event in Europe during this period. That is, the Mw 5.7 earthquake induced remarkable gravity fluctuations over long distances at stations all over the world. As such, the foreshocks with larger magnitudes occurred before the Mw 9.0 earthquake would have more significant influence on the gravity recordings and the seismic-wave induced component should be removed during the analysis of anomalies prior to a great earthquake in future studies.

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