Internal structure of the shallow Japan Trench décollement: insights into the long-term evolution of the margin and coseismic slip processes


The 2011 MW 9.0 Tohoku-oki earthquake ruptured to the Japan Trench, with largest coseismic slip occurring on the shallow part of the décollement. To better understand the controls on rupture propagation and slip, the structure and composition of the décollement near the trench were investigated during Integrated Ocean Drilling Project Expedition 343 (the JFAST project). The plate boundary décollement is localized upon a ≤4.86 m thick layer of smectite-rich pelagic clay. Stratigraphic discontinuities at the base of the hangingwall, top of the footwall and surrounding a horse of intra-décollement mudstone suggest that the fault contains multiple slip surfaces, although most of these were not recovered. The décollement damage zone is <10 m wide in both the overlying frontal prism and down-going Pacific plate showing that long-term displacement on the plate boundary fault near the Japan Trench is extremely localized and in turn suggesting the fault is weak relative to the bounding sediments. A pervasive composite foliation, or scaly fabric, defined by striated, lustrous surfaces enclosing lenses of less fissile phacoids is distributed throughout the décollement clay. The asymmetry of phacoids is consistent with top-to-the-trench shear sense. Several narrow, planar discontinuities crosscut the scaly fabric, truncating or disrupting the foliation and in one case juxtaposing domains of the clay with different foliation orientation and intensity, indicating relative displacement. The scaly fabric is indicative of distributed shear across the recovered interval (~1 m), and may represent deformation at interseismic strain rates. The sharp discontinuities within the décollement clay, however, resulted from slip localization. They are similar to structures produced in friction experiments conducted at coseismic slip rates suggesting they may record earthquake deformation.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Conference Date

9-13 December, 2013


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding