Seismic heterogeneity and anisotropy of the Honshu arc from the Japan Trench to the Japan Sea

Zhouchuan Huang, Dapeng Zhao, Liangshu Wang

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107 Citations (Scopus)


We determined P- and S-wave tomography and P-wave anisotropic structure under the Honshu arc from the Japan Trench to the backarc area under the Japan Sea using 310 749 P- and 150 563 S-wave arrivals from 4655 local earthquakes recorded by 982 seismograph stations. Arrival times from 1451 suboceanic earthquakes relocated with sP depth phases enable us to determine the structures under the Pacific Ocean and Japan Sea, which expand the study region from the land area to the whole arc from the Japan Trench to the Japan Sea with a width of more than 500 km. The results show strong heterogeneities above the subducting Pacific slab under the Pacific Ocean and most large thrust-type earthquakes occurred in the high-velocity areas where the Pacific slab and the overriding continental plate may be strongly coupled. Low-velocity (low-V) zones are imaged in the mantle wedge with significant along-arc variations under the volcanic front. The mantle-wedge low-V zone extends westwards under the Japan Sea and it is connected with the subducting Pacific slab at depths of 150-200 km under the backarc. The results indicate that the H2O and fluids brought downwards by the subducting Pacific slab are released into the mantle wedge by dehydration and are subsequently transported to the surface by the upwelling flow in the mantle wedge. Significant P-wave anisotropic anomalies are revealed under the Honshu arc. The predominant fast velocity direction (FVD) is E-W in the mantle wedge while it is N-S in the subducting Pacific slab. The anisotropy in the mantle wedge is the result of deformation caused by the subduction of the Pacific plate and the induced mantle-wedge convection, while the FVD pattern in the middle of the mantle wedge argues for the 3-D mantle flow or the specific alignment of the olivine in the partial-melting mantle. The N-S (trench-parallel) FVD in the subducting Pacific slab represents either the original fossil anisotropy when the Pacific plate formed or the trench-parallel crystallographic and shaped preferred orientation in the subducting slab due to the slab bending. The present results shed new light on the structural heterogeneities and seismic anisotropy under the Honshu arc, which may improve our understanding of the dynamic processes of subduction zones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1428-1444
Number of pages17
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Mar


  • Seismic anisotropy
  • Seismic tomography
  • Subduction zone processes


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