EARTHQUAKES IN JAPAN AND THE SOUTHERN KURIL ISLANDS IN THE 20TH
Setting of the Northern Japan/Kuril Island Region
The overall tectonics
of northeast Asia are very complicated. Whether the Sea of Okhotsk
and the northern Japanese islands are part of the North American
plate or of a separate Okhotsk plate has not been determined.
On the Pacific Ocean side, earthquake slip vectors along the
Kuril and Japan trenches are consistent with either a Pacific-North
America or a Pacific-Okhotsk plate motion. We will assume that
the Pacific-North America plate motion is better supported.
The Kuril island arc is located
between the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
The Kuril Trench has been formed by the subduction of the Pacific
plate under the North American plate. It extends from the offshore
central area of Kamchatka to Hokkaido.
The plate tectonics of the Southern Kuril islands-Northern Hokkaido
region are very different than those along the southern portion
of the Japanese Trench. The South Kuril Islands are part of the
Kuril arc in the Okhotsk plate which has been colliding westward
against the Northeast Japan arc, along the Hidaka Collision Zone
(HCZ), where new continental crust is created by active arc-arc
Deep seismic reflection studies (Ito, Kazuka @Abe, 2001) show
the lower crust of the Kuril arc to be delaminated at a depth
of about 23 km. These studies indicate that the upper half (above
23 km) - consisting of the earth's upper crust and the upper
portion of lower crust of the Kuril arc - is thrusting over the
Northeast Japan arc along the Hidaka Main Thrust (HMT). However,
the lower half (below 23 km) - consisting of the lower portion
of lower crust and upper mantle material - is descending downward.
As a result of such
kinematic processes, the wedge of the Northeast Japan arc is
intruded into the delaminated Kuril arc, as the Pacific plate
is subducting northward beneath both of the above mentioned structures,
thus continuing the arc-arc collision (and continental crust
production). The complex, seismo- tectonic kinematic process
of this region has been named "Delamination-wedge-subduction
system" - which may apply also to other areas where active
arc-arc collision and concurrent subduction take place.
Accordingly, Hokkaido - Japan's northernmost island - extends
northeast into Kuril Islands and is composed of multiple compressed
island arcs. The northern half of Honshu (north of Tokyo), which
is Japan's main island, represents a typical mature island arc,
while the southern half of the island represents also a typical
mature island arc, as the Philippine Sea plate subducts below
the Eurasian plate.
On the western side, the Sea of Japan is a complex basin between
Japan and the Korea/Okhotsk Sea Basin. It represents another
subplate with apparent rotational movement as it interacts against
the Okhotsk plate, along the inland sea boundary of the Hidaka
Collision Zone (HCZ).
Sakhalin island, north of Hokkaido, which separates the Sea of
Japan from the Sea of Okhotsk, is probably the result of transpressional
tectonics along the North America-Eurasia boundary.
and Arc-Arc Collision
Subduction and volcanic
arc-arc collision along the Japan and Kuril Trenches have been
primarily responsible for many large historical earthquakes,
on the Pacific side of Northern Japan and the South and Central
Kuril island region
The Pacific plate converges into northeastern Asia (the Okhotsk
subplate which is part of the North American plate, separated
from the Eurasian plate by the Hidaka Collision Zone (HCZ)).
The rate of tectonic convergence along the Kamchatka, Kuril and
Japan trenches is estimated at about 8-9 m per century - which
is a very high. Hokkaido, which extends northeast into Kuril
Islands is composed of multiple compressed island arcs.
In the past two centuries this fast rate of subduction has triggered
several large earthquakes with magnitudes of up to 8 or more
along the southern Kuril trench, near the island of Hokkaido.
However, these historical earthquakes have ruptured segments
of the trench and of the forearc region that have been only in
the range of 100-200 km long. Thus, these must be considered
as characteristic of most plate-boundary earthquakes for this
volcanic arc region.
The recent earthquake of November 15, 2006 - like those of 1994
and of 1963 - occurred on the Pacific side boundary of the smaller
tectonic subplate which includes the Sea of Okhotsk and possibly
a portion of the northern part of the Sea of Japan (Pararas-Carayannis,
of the Northern Japan/Kuril island Region
Apparently, the grinding motion of the North Pacific Plate against
this subplate, results in larger earthquakes - such as those
of 1963 and 1994 - but apparently with less vertical subduction
and more rotational movement. For example, the 1994 quake resulted
in only about 50 cm of land subsidence but in extensive lateral
movement at Shikotan Island. A greater amount of subsidence would
have been expected, given the earthquake's large magnitude.
The Southern Kuril
islands and Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone
regions in the world. Around 20 per cent of the world's earthquakes
take place in this region. The seismicity of Northern Japan is
the result of a double seismic zone (DSZ), and compressional
deep trench and outer rise events and is caused by the magmatic
effects of plumes or superplumes which, originally, may have
hydrated the subducting oceanic lithosphere. Usually, shallow
normal faulting occurs in the trench-outer rise region.
in the Northern Japan/Southern Kuril Island Region (since 1963)
EARTHQUAKES IN JAPAN AND THE SOUTHERN KURIL ISLANDS IN THE 20TH
* 1923 - SEPTEMBER
1, : Tokyo, Magnitude
8.3, 140,000 dead.
* 1933 - MARCH 2
: Tsunami caused
by quake off northeastern coast, Magnitude 8.9, 2,990 dead.
* 1946 - DECEMBER
21: Shikoku, Western
Japan, Magnitude 8.0, 2,000 dead.
* 1948 - JUNE 28
: Fukui, Western
Japan, Magnitude 7.1, 3,769 dead.
* 1952 - MARCH 4
: Hokkaido, Magnitude
8.2, 8,233 dead.
* 1963 - OCTOBER 13 - Southern Kuril Islands (MS=8.1, I=2.5) - Urup
* 1964 - JUNE 16:
Sea of Japan - (MS=7.5)
- Niigata tsunami (26 dead).
* 1968 - MAY 16 : Tokachi, Eastern Hokkaido, Magnitude
7.9, 52 dead.
* 1969 - AUGUST 11
- Kuril Islands (MS=7.8,
I=2.0) - Shikotan tsunamis.
* 1983 - MAY 25 : Northern part of Sea of Japan,
Magnitude MS= 7.7 (104 dead).
* 1993 - JANUARY
15 : Kushiro, Hokkaido,
Magnitude (MS=7.8), Kushiro tsunami, one dead.
* 1993 - JULY 12
: Japan Sea - Okushiri,
Hokkaido, Magnitude (MS=7.8) - Okushiri tsunami ( Maximum Wave
Height 30.2m) (more than 200 dead).
Survey Map of Major Earthquakes in Japan including the 1995 Kobe
* 1994 = OCTOBER
4 : South Kuril Islands/Northern
Japan Hokkaido, Magnitude (MS=8.1) , - Shikotan tsunami (8 dead
in Kuril Islands).
* 1994 - DECEMBER
28 : Hachinohe, Northern
Japan, Magnitude 7.5, 2 dead.
* 1995 - JANUARY
17 : Kobe, Western
Japan, Magnitude 7.2, more than 1,800 killed.
Kobe Earthquake of 17 January 1995
of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake
Review of the historic
record indicates that the following major and great earthquakes
occurred since 1963 near the Southern Kuril Islands, Northern
Japan and the Sea of Japan:
October 13, 1963
- Kuril Islands (MS=8.1,
I=2.5) - Urup tsunami.
June 16, 1964 - Sea of Japan - (MS=7.5) - Niigata
tsunami (26 dead).
August 11, 1969 - Kuril Islands (MS=7.8, I=2.0)
- Shikotan tsunamis.
May 25, 1983 - Northern part of Sea of Japan
(MS= 7.7) - (104 dead).
January 15, 1993
- Japan / Hokkaido
(MS=7.8) - Kushiro tsunami, one dead.
July 12, 1993 - Japan Sea (MS=7.7, I=3.0) -
Okushiri tsunami ( Maximum Wave Height 30.2m) (more than 200
October 4, 1994 -
South Kuril Islands/Northern
Japan Hokkaido(MS=8.1, I=2.6) - Shikotan tsunami (8 dead in Kuril
The Earthquakes of
13 and 19 October 1963 - A pair of large magnitude earthquakes occurred
north of Hokkaido, in the southern Kuril Islands on the 13 and
19 of October 1963. The 13 October earthquake had an Ms = 8.1
and an Mw = 8.5 while the 19 October earthquake had an Ms = 7.2
and an Mw = 7.8. Both quakes generated tsunamis.
Epicenter of the 1994
The Earthquake and
Tsunami of October 4, 1994 - Most affected by this earthquake and the tsunami
that was generated were the islands of Shikotan, Kunashir and
Iturup, in the South Kurils - and the small islands between Shikotan
and Hokkaido (Yeh et al, 1995). Maximum tsunami runup on Shikotan
Island was reported to be approximately 10 m (about 30 feet)
high. Hokkaido was only affected by the tsunami. Maximum tsunami
runup along the coast of Hokkaido, Japan, was 1.8 meters (at
AND FURTHER READING
The following are
selected references for further reading on the kinematics of
tectonic interactions along the Japanese and Kuril Island arcs
and in the Sea of Japan which historically have produced numerous
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source models of the 1983 Nihonkai-earthquake tsunami, Proceeding
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GELABERT, B., SABAT, F., RODRIGUEZ-PEREA, A. , and FORNS, J.,
2001. ON THE ORIGIN OF ARCUATE FOLDED BELTS AND BACK-ARC BASINS,
GSA Annual Meeting, November 5-8, 2001 Session No. 137
Nakamura, K., V. Renard, J. Angelier, J. Azema, J. Bourgois,
C. Deplus, K. Fujioka, Y. Hamano, P. Huchon, H. Kinoshita, P.
Labaume, Y. Ogawa, T. Seno, A. Takeuchi, M. Tanahashi, A. Uchiyama,
and J. L. Vigneresse. Oblique and near collision subduction,
Sagami and Suruga troughs -Preliminary results of French-Japanese
1984 KAIKO cruise, leg 2 Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 83 229-242
Kawakatsu, H., and T. Seno, 1983. Triple seismic zone and the
regional variation of seismicity along the northern Honshu arc.
J. Geophys. Res. 88 4215-4230 1983
Ogawa, Y., T. Seno,
H. Akiyoshi, H. Tokuyama, K. Fujioka, and H. Taniguchi, 1989.
Structure and development of the Sagami Trough and off-Boso triple
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Report of NIDP (National Institute for Disaster Prevention),
Ogawa, Y., T. Seno,
H. Akiyoshi, H. Tokuyama, K. Fujioka, and H. Taniguchi. Structure
and development of the Sagami Trough and off-Boso triple junction
Tectonophysics 160 135-150, 1989
Kawakatsu, H., and
T. Seno. Triple seismic zone and the regional variation of seismicity
along the northern Honshu arc. J. Geophys. Res. 88 4215-4230
Renard, V., Nakamura,
K., J. Angelier, J. Azema, J. Bourgois, C. Deplus, K. Fujioka,
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Seno, A. Takeuchi, M. Tanahashi, A. Uchiyama, and J. L. Vigneresse.
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Pararas-Carayannis G. 1983, The Earthquake and Tsunami of 26
May 1983 in the Sea of Japan
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the Taiwan and the Southern Ryukyu Islands Region,
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