Shortcomings of InSAR for studying megathrust earthquakes: The case of the M w 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake

Guangcai Feng, Sigurjon Jonsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) observations are sometimes the only geodetic data of large subduction-zone earthquakes. However, these data usually suffer from spatially long-wavelength orbital and atmospheric errors that can be difficult to distinguish from the coseismic deformation and may therefore result in biased fault-slip inversions. To study how well InSAR constrains fault-slip of large subduction zone earthquakes, we use data of the 11 March 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake (Mw9.0) and test InSAR-derived fault-slip models against models constrained by GPS data from the extensive nationwide network in Japan. The coseismic deformation field was mapped using InSAR data acquired from multiple ascending and descending passes of the ALOS and Envisat satellites. We then estimated several fault-slip distribution models that were constrained using the InSAR data alone, onland and seafloor GPS/acoustic data, or combinations of the different data sets. Based on comparisons of the slip models, we find that there is no real gain by including InSAR observations for determining the fault slip distribution of this earthquake. That said, however, some of the main fault-slip patterns can be retrieved using the InSAR data alone when estimating long wavelength orbital/atmospheric ramps as a part of the modeling. Our final preferred fault-slip solution of the Tohoku-Oki earthquake is based only on the GPS data and has maximum reverse- and strike-slip of 36.0 m and 6.0 m, respectively, located northeast of the epicenter at a depth of 6 km, and has a total geodetic moment is 3.6 × 1022 Nm (Mw 9.01), similar to seismological estimates.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)n/a-n/a
Number of pages1
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume39
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - May 22 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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