The Ionospheric Precursor to the 2011 March 11 Earthquake Based upon Observations Obtained from the Japan-Pacific Subionospheric VLF/LF Network


By using network observation of subionospheric VLF (very low frequency)/LF (low frequency) signals in Japan and in Russia, we have found a significant ionospheric perturbation prior to the recent 2011 March 11 Japan earthquake (EQ) which occurred at sea proximate to the Tohoku area on the main island (Honshu) of Japan was an exceptionally huge plate-type EQ. A remarkable anomaly (with a decrease in the nighttime amplitude and also with enhancement in dispersion) was detected on March 5 and 6 along the propagation path from the NLK (Seattle, USA) transmitter to Chofu (together with Kochi and Kasugai). We also have observed the corresponding VLF anomaly during a prolonged period of March 1 - 6, with minima in the nighttime amplitude on March 3 and 4 along the path from JJI (Miyazaki, Kyushu) to Kamchatka, Russia. This ionospheric perturbation has been discussed extensively with respect to its reliability. (1) How abnormal is this VLF/LF propagation anomaly? (2) What was the temporal evolution of terminator times? (3) Were there any solar-terrestrial effects (especially the effect from geomagnetic storms) on the VLF/LF propagation anomaly? (4) The effect of any other EQs and foreshock activities on the VLF/LF anomaly? (5) Were there any correlations with other related phenomena? Finally, (6) are there any other examples of a VLF/LF propagation anomaly for oceanic EQs? We then compared the temporal properties of ionospheric perturbations for this EQ with those of a huge number of inland EQs and compared the corresponding spatial scale with the former result of the same oceanic 2004 Sumatra EQ with nearly the same magnitude. Finally, the generation mechanism of those seismo-ionospheric perturbations is briefly discussed.

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