Repeated drainage from megathrusts during episodic slow slip

Junichi Nakajima, Naoki Uchida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Pore-fluid pressure levels are considered to regulate the frictional strength and slip behaviour at megathrusts, where the largest earthquakes on Earth occur. Some analyses have suggested that the breaking of permeability seals during megathrust earthquakes causes subsequent drainage from the megathrust. However, it is poorly understood whether drainage follows frequent occurrences of episodic slow slip events. Here we analyse seismic waveform data beneath Kanto, Japan, for the period from 2004 to 2015 and show that seismicity rates and seismic attenuation above the megathrust of the Philippine Sea slab change cyclically in response to accelerated slow slip. These observations are interpreted to represent intensive drainage during slow slip events that repeat at intervals of approximately one year and subsequent migration of fluids into the permeable overlying plate. Our observations suggest that if slow slip events occur under an impermeable overlying plate, fluids draining due to slow slip events could be forced to channel within the megathrust, potentially enhancing pore-fluid pressure at an up-dip, locked seismogenic megathrust. This process might increase the potential to trigger large earthquakes near slow slip areas. Although stress transfer is recognized as an important factor for triggering megathrust failure, fluid transfer accompanied by episodic slow slip events will thus play an additional and crucial part in megathrust weakening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-356
Number of pages6
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May 1


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