Influence of fluids and magma on earthquakes: Seismological evidence

Dapeng Zhao, O. P. Mishra, R. Sanda

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256 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we present seismological evidence for the influence of fluids and magma on the generation of large earthquakes in the crust and the subducting oceanic slabs under the Japan Islands. The relationship between seismic tomography and large crustal earthquakes (M = 5.7-8.0) in Japan during a period of 116 years from 1885 to 2000 is investigated and it is found that most of the large crustal earthquakes occurred in or around the areas of low seismic velocity. The low-velocity zones represent weak sections of the seismogenic crust. The crustal weakening is closely related to the subduction process in this region. Along the volcanic front and in back-arc areas, the crustal weakening is caused by active volcanoes and arc magma resulting from the convective circulation process in the mantle wedge and dehydration reactions in the subducting slab. In the forearc region of southwest Japan, fluids are suggested in the 1995 Kobe earthquake source zone, which have contributed to the rupture nucleation. The fluids originate from the dehydration of the subducting Philippine Sea slab. The recent 2001 Geiyo earthquake (M = 6.8) occurred at 50 km depth within the subducting Philippine Sea slab, and it was also related to the slab dehydration process. A detailed 3D velocity structure is determined for the northeast Japan forearc region using data from 598 earthquakes that occurred under the Pacific Ocean with hypocenters well located with SP depth phases. The results show that strong lateral heterogeneities exist along the slab boundary, which represent asperities and results of slab dehydration and affect the degree and extent of the interplate seismic coupling. These results indicate that large earthquakes do not strike anywhere, but only anomalous areas which can be detected with geophysical methods. The generation of a large earthquake is not a pure mechanical process, but is closely related to physical and chemical properties of materials in the crust and upper mantle, such as magma, fluids, etc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-267
Number of pages19
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002 Oct 15


  • Earthquakes
  • Fluids
  • Magma
  • Seismic tomography
  • Subduction zones


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