Open Access

Probability of a great earthquake to recur in the Tokai district, Japan: reevaluation based on newly-developed paleoseismology, plate tectonics, tsunami study, micro-seismicity and geodetic measurements

Earth, Planets and Space201451:BF03352219

Received: 6 August 1998

Accepted: 17 February 1999

Published: 6 June 2014


In light of newly-acquired geophysical information about earthquake generation in the Tokai area, Central Japan, where occurrence of a great earthquake of magnitude 8 or so has recently been feared, probabilities of earthquake occurrence in the near future are reevaluated. Much of the data used for evaluation here relies on recently-developed paleoseismology, tsunami study and GPS geodesy.

The new Weibull distribution analysis of recurrence tendency of great earthquakes in the Tokai-Nankai zone indicates that the mean return period of great earthquakes there is estimated as 109 yr with a standard deviation amounting to 33 yr. These values do not differ much from those of previous studies (Rikitake, 1976, 1986; Utsu, 1984).

Taking the newly-determined velocities of the motion of Philippine Sea plate at various portions of the Tokai-Nankai zone into account, the ultimate displacements to rupture at the plate boundary are obtained. A Weibull distribution analysis results in the mean ultimate displacement amounting to 4.70 m with a standard deviation estimated as 0.86 m. A return period amounting to 117 yr is obtained at the Suruga Bay portion by dividing the mean ultimate displacement by the relative plate velocity.

With the aid of the fault models as determined from the tsunami studies, the increases in the cumulative seismic slips associated with the great earthquakes are examined at various portions of the zone. It appears that a slip-predictable model can better be applied to the occurrence mode of great earthquakes in the zone than a time-predictable model. The crustal strain accumulating over the Tokai area as estimated from the newly-developed geodetic work including the GPS observations is compared to the ultimate strain presumed by the above two models.

The probabilities for a great earthquake to recur in the Tokai district are then estimated with the aid of the Weibull analysis parameters obtained for the four cases discussed in the above. All the probabilities evaluated for the four cases take on values ranging 35–45 percent for a ten-year period following the year 2000.