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Stress due to the interseismic back slip and its relation with the focal mechanisms of earthquakes occurring in the Kuril and northeastern Japan arcs


Assuming a uniform and inhomogeneous distribution of back slip, based on a realistic configuration of the plate boundary that was newly determined from the distribution of earthquakes, we have investigated if the stress due to the interseismic back slip can explain the focal mechanisms of earthquakes occurring in the Kuril and northeastern Japan arcs. The inhomogeneous back-slip model was taken from the distribution of slip deficit estimated from GPS data collected in recent years. We examined the change in the Coulomb Failure Function (ΔCFF) for several target faults to evaluate the fitness of the models to the observed focal mechanisms. The results of ΔCFF are clearly different in the two back-slip models near the down-dip end of the locked zone. Despite this difference, the models can generally explain the earthquake focal mechanisms in the overriding plate as well as those on the megathrust plate boundary. However, they cannot explain the focal mechanisms of intermediate-depth earthquakes in the double-planed deep seismic zone. Neither can they fully explain the focal mechanisms with the pressure axis parallel to the trench that are observed at the junction of the Kuril and northeastern Japan arcs. Other tectonic processes, such as the transcurrent movement of the forearc sliver along the Kuril arc, may be involved in producing the stress anomaly.


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Correspondence to T. Sato.

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Key words

  • Interseismic loading
  • subduction zone
  • back slip
  • Kuril arc
  • northeastern Japan arc
  • oblique subduction
  • focal mechanism