Subduction zone guided waves and the heterogeneity structure of the subducted plate: Intensity anomalies in northern Japan

T. Furumura*, Brian L.N. Kennett

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    130 Citations (Scopus)


    The subducting Pacific plate acts an efficient waveguide for high-frequency signals and often produces anomalously large intensity on the eastern seaboard of northern Japan during deep earthquakes. The waveform records in the region of high intensity show a low-frequency (f < 0.25 Hz) onset for both P and S waves, followed by large, high-frequency (f > 2 Hz) later arrivals with a long coda. This behavior is not explained by a simple subduction zone model comprising a high-velocity plate with low attenuation. From the analysis of observed broadband waveforms and numerical simulation of seismic wave propagation in the Pacific subduction zone we demonstrate that the high-frequency guided waves traveling in the subducting plate arise from the scattering of seismic waves by heterogeneity in plate structure. Our preferred model of the heterogeneity has elongated scatterers parallel to the plate margin described by a von Karmann function with a downdip correlation length of about 10 km and much shorter correlation length of about 0.5 km in thickness. The standard deviation of wave speed fluctuations from the averaged background model is about 2%. This new heterogeneous plate model generates significant scattering of seismic waves with wavelengths shorter than correlation distance in thickness, but low-frequency waves, with long wavelengths, can easy tunnel through such lamina structure. The result is frequency-selective propagation characteristics with a faster low-frequency phase followed by large and high-frequency signals with very long coda. A low-wave speed channel effect from the former oceanic crust at the top of the subducting slab is not necessary to explain the observed dispersed signals and the very long high-frequency coda. Three-dimensional simulations, using the Earth simulator supercomputer for modeling of high-frequency seismic wave propagation in the Pacific subduction zone including plate heterogeneity, clearly demonstrate the scattering waveguide effects for high-frequency seismic waves traveling in the plate. The region of large intensity for the heterogeneous model migrates away from the hypocenter into northern Japan with an elongated zone along the Pacific coast, almost comparable to the observations from deep events in the Pacific plate.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberB10302
    Pages (from-to)1-27
    Number of pages27
    JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2005


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