Skip to main content


Strain concentration zone along the volcanic front derived by GPS observations in NE Japan arc


A nationwide GPS array with more than 1,000 permanent stations operated by the Geographical Survey Institute of Japan, has provided many invaluable deformation data such as co- and post-seismic, volcanic, and ongoing secular deformations in the Japanese islands. Based on daily coordinate data of the GEONET stations together with results from a regional network operated by Tohoku University, we derived a map of the strain rate distribution in NE Japan showing that there exists a notable strain concentration zone of EW contraction along the Volcanic Front. The area demonstrates active seismicity including some disastrous earthquakes. Recent seismic tomography studies have revealed the existence of inclined seismic low-velocity zones (LVZ) at depths shallower than ~150 km in the mantle wedge sub-parallel to the subducted slab. The inclined LVZ reaches the Moho right beneath the Volcanic Front, indicating that the formation of the strain concentration zone is closely related to the rheological structure of the island-arc system.


  1. Aonashi, K., Y. Shoji, R. Ichikawa, and H. Hanado, Estimation of PWC gradients over the Kanto Plain using GPS data: Validation and possible meteorological implications, Earth Planets Space, 52, 907–912, 2000.

  2. DeMets, C., R. G. Gordon, D. F. Argus and S. Stein, Effect of recent revisions to the geomagnetic reversal time scale on estimates of current plate motion, Geophys. Res. Lett., 21, 2,191–2,194, 1994.

  3. Hasegawa, A. and N. Hirata, An introduction to the transect of northeastern Japan: Deformation of island-arc and crustal activity, Chikyu, Supl. 27, 5–11, 1999 (in Japanese).

  4. Hasegawa, A. and J. Nakajima, Geophysical constraints on slab subduction and arc magmatism, AGU Geophysical Monograph (in press).

  5. Hasegawa, T., S. Hori, T. Hasegawa, K. Kasahara, S. Horiuchi, and J. Koyama, On the focal mechanism of the Southeastern Akita Earthquake in 1970, J. Seismol. Soc. Jpn., 27, 302–312, 1974 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  6. Hasegawa, A., K. Kasahara, T. Hasegawa, and S. Hori, On the focal mechanism of the Southeastern Akita Earthquake in 1970 (2), J. Seismol. Soc. Jpn., 28, 141–151, 1975 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  7. Hasegawa, A., S. Horiuchi, and N. Umino, Seismic structure of the northeastern Japan convergent margin: A synthesis, J. Geophys. Res., 99, 22,295–22,311, 1994.

  8. Hasegawa, A., A. Yamamoto, N. Umino, S. Miura, S. Horiuchi, D. Zhao, and H. Sato, Seismic activity and deformation process of the overriding plate in the northeastern Japan subduction zone, Tectonophys., 319, 225–239, 2000.

  9. Hasegawa, A., J. Nakajima, N. Umino, S. Miura, and Y. Suwa, Crustal deformation and shallow seismic activity beneath the northeastern Japan arc J. Seismol. Soc. Jpn., 56, 413–424, 2004 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  10. Heki, K., S. Miyazaki, and H. Tsuji, Silent fault slip following an interplate thrust earthquake at the Japan Trench, Nature, 386, 595–597, 1997.

  11. Iio, Y., T. Sagiya, N. Umino, T. Nishimura, K. Takahashi, and T. Homma, A comprehensive model of the deformation process in the Nagamachi- Rifu Fault Zone, Earth Planets Space, 56, this issue, 1341–1347, 2004.

  12. Kimata, F., S. Kariya, M. Fujita, K. Matsumoto, T. Tabei, J. Segawa, and A. Yamada, Estimated pressure source in Kozu Island volcano, southern Central Japan, with GPS measurements (July 1996–August 1999), Earth Planets Space, 52, 975–978, 2000.

  13. Kobayashi, Y., Initiation of subduction of plates, Chikyu, 5, 510–514, 1983 (in Japanese).

  14. Kono, T., K. Nida, S. Matsumoto, S. Horiuchi, T. Okada, M. Kaihara, A. Hasegawa, S. Hori, N. Umino, and M. Suzuki, Microearthquake activity in the focal area of the 1962 Northern Miyagi earthquake (M6.5), J. Seismol. Soc. Jpn., 46, 85–93, 1993 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  15. Kosuga, M., T. Sato, A. Hasegawa, T. Matsuzawa, S. Suzuki, and Y. Motoya, Spatial distribution of intermediate-depth earthquakes with horizontal or vertical nodal planes beneath northeastern Japan, Phys. Earth Planet. Int., 93, 63–89, 1996.

  16. Matsuda, T., H. Yamazaki, T. Nakata, and T. Imaizumi, The surface faulting associated with Riku-u earthquake of 1896, Bull., Earthquake Res., Inst., Tokyo Univ., 55, 795–855, 1980 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  17. Mazzotti, S., X. Le Pichon, P. Henry, and S. Miyazaki, Full interseismic locking of the Nankai and Japan-west Kurile subduction zones: An analysis of uniform elastic strain accumulation in Japan constrained by permanent GPS, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 13,159–13,177, 2000.

  18. Miura, S., S. Ueki, T. Sato, K. Tachibana, and H. Hamaguchi, Crustal deformation associated with the 1998 seismo-volcanic crisis of Iwate Volcano, Northeastern Japan, as observed by a dense GPS network, Earth Planets Space, 52, 1,003–1,008, 2000.

  19. Miura, S., T. Sato, K. Tachibana, Y. Satake, and A. Hasegawa, Strain accumulation in and around Ou Backbone Range, northeastern Japan as observed by a dense GPS network, Earth Planets Space, 54, 1,071–1,076, 2002.

  20. Miura, S., Y. Suwa, T. Sato, K. Tachibana, and A. Hasegawa, Slip distribution of the 2003 northern Miyagi earthquake (M6.4) deduced from geodetic inversion, Earth Planets Space, 56, 95–101, 2004.

  21. Miyazaki, S., T. Saito, M. Sasaki, Y. Hatanaka, and Y. Iimura, Expansion of GSI’s nationwide GPS array, Bull. Geogr. Surv. Inst., 43, 23–34, 1997.

  22. Nakajima, J., T. Matsuzawa, A. Hasegawa, and D. Zhao, Seismic imaging of arc magma and fluids under the central part of northeastern Japan, Tectonophys., 341, 1–17, 2001.

  23. Nakamura, K., Possible nascent trench along the eastern Japan Sea as the convergence boundary between Eurasian and North American plates, Bull. Earthquake Res. Inst. Univ. Tokyo, 58, 711–722, 1983 (in Japanese with English abstract).

  24. Nishimura, T., S. Miura, K. Tachibana, K. Hashimoto, T. Sato, S. Hori, E. Murakami, T. Kono, K. Nida, M. Mishina, T. Hirasawa, and S. Miyazaki, Distribution of seismic coupling on the subducting plate boundary in northeastern Japan inferred from GPS observations, Tectonophys., 323, 217–238, 2000.

  25. Ohtani, R., N. Koizumi, N. Matsumoto, and E. Tsukuda, Preliminary results from permanent GPS array by the Geological Survey of Japan in conjunction with groundwater-level observations, Earth Planets Space, 52, 663–668, 2000.

  26. Okada, T. and A. Hasegawa, Activity of deep low-frequency microearthquakes and their moment tensors in Northeastern Japan, Bull. Volcan. Soc. Jap., 45, 47–63, 2000.

  27. Okada, T., N. Umino, and A. Hasegawa, Rupture process of Jul. 26 2003 northern Miyagi earthquake sequence, NE Japan, estimated from double-difference hypocenter locations, Earth Planets Space, 55, 741–750, 2003.

  28. Sagiya, T., S. Miyazaki, and T. Tada, Continuous GPS array and presentday crustal deformation of Japan, Pure Appl. Geophys., 157, 2,303–2,322, 2000.

  29. Sagiya, T., T. Nishimura, Y. Iio, T. Tada, Crustal deformation around the northern and central Itoigawa-Shizuoka Tectonic Line: GPS observation and modeling, Earth Planets Space, 54, 1,059–1,063, 2002.

  30. Steblov, G. M., M. G. Kogan, R.W. King, C. H. Scholz, R. Bürgmann, and D. I. Frolov, Imprint of the North American plate in Siberia revealed by GPS, Geophys. Res. Lett., 30 (18), doi:10.1029/2003GL017805, 2003.

  31. Suwa, Y., S. Miura, A. Hasegawa, T. Sato, and K. Tachibana, Inter-plate coupling beneath NE Japan arc inferred from 3 dimensional crustal deformation, paper presented at the Symposium JSG01, 23th General Assembly of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, Sapporo, 8 July, 2003.

  32. Suwa, Y., S. Miura, A. Hasegawa, T. Sato, and K. Tachibana, Inter-plate coupling beneath the NE Japan arc inferred from 3 dimensional crustal deformation, J. Seismol. Soc. Jpn., 56, 471–484, 2004 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  33. Tada, T., Horizontal crustal strain in the northeastern Japan arc and its relation to the tectonics, J. Seismol. Soc. Jpn., 39, 257–265, 1986 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  34. Takiguchi, H., T. Kato, H. Kobayashi, and T. Nakaegawa, GPS observations in Thailand for hydrological applications, Earth Planets Space, 52, 913–919, 2000.

  35. Thatcher, W., J. B. Rundall, T. Kato, and T. Matsuda, Lithospheric loading by the 1896 Riku-u earthquake, northern Japan: Implications for plate flexure and asthenospheric rheology, J. Geophys. Res., 85, 6,429–6,435, 1980.

  36. Umino, N., T. Okada, A. Nakamura, J. Nakajima, T. Sato, S. Hori, T. Kono, K. Nida, S. Ueki, T. Matsuzawa, A. Hasegawa, and H. Hamaguchi, Aftershock distribution for the M6.1 earthquake of 3 September 1998 in Shizukuishi, Iwate prefecture, northeastern Japan, Active Fault Res., 17, 1–8, 1998 (in Japanese with an English abstract).

  37. Umino, N., T. Okada, J. Nakajima, S. Hori, T. Kono, T. Nakayama, N. Uchida, J. Shimizu, J. Suganomata, S. S. N. Gamage, A. Hasegawa, and Y. Asano, Hypocenter and focal mechanism distributions of aftershocks of July 26 2003 M6.4 northern Miyagi, NE Japan, earthquake revealed by temporary seismic observation, Earth Planets Space, 55, 719–730, 2003.

  38. Urabe, T., Basic design of an earthquake telemetering system utilizing a communication satellite, Programme Abstr. Seismol. Soc. Jpn., P22, 1996 (in Japanese).

  39. Wei, D. and T. Seno, Determination of the Amurian plate motion, in Mantle Dynamics and Plate Interactions in East Asia, Geodyn. Ser. v. 27, edited by M. F. J. Flower et al., 419 pp., AGU, Washington, DC, 1998.

  40. Wessel, P. and W. H. F. Smith, Free software helps map and display data, Abstr. EOS Tran. Am. Geophys. Union, 72, 445–446, 1991.

  41. Yamazaki, T. and T. Seno, High strain rate zone resulting from viscosity heterogeneities in the uppermost mantle, Abstracts of 2004 Japan Earth Planetary Science Joint Meeting, T054-008, 2004 (in Japanese).

  42. Zumberge, J. F., M. B. Heflin, D. C. Jefferson, M. M. Watkins, and F. H. Webb, Precise point positioning for the efficient and robust analysis of GPS data from large networks, J. Geophys. Res., 102, 5,005–5,017, 1997.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Satoshi Miura.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Key words

  • Strain concentration zone
  • Volcanic front
  • Inland earthquakes
  • GPS