Zisin (Journal of the Seismological Society of Japan. 2nd ser.)
Online ISSN : 1883-9029
Print ISSN : 0037-1114
ISSN-L : 0037-1114
Strong Motion Characteristics of the 2011 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake
Author information

2012 Volume 64 Issue 3 Pages 169-182


The 2011 M 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake is the largest earthquake that occurred in and around Japan since the beginning of the recorded history. This megathrust event initiated approximately 100km off-shore Miyagi prefecture, in northeast Japan, and its rupture extended 400-500km along the subducting Pacific plate. This is the first M 9-class earthquake that has been closely recorded by a dense seismograph network. Strong motions of this earthquake are characterized by large seismic intensities and peak ground accelerations (PGA), long durations, and wideness of the area that experienced intense shaking. The ground motions were recorded by 1223 K-NET and KiK-net stations. The PGA exceeded gravity at 20 sites; the largest PGA, of 2933 gals, was observed at the K-NET Tsukidate station (MYG004). The attenuation of the recorded peak values shows a possibility of saturating strong ground motion amplitude with the magnitude. The complex features of the accelerograms and velocity waveforms are discussed in connection with the source processes estimated using long and short period waveform data. Due to the large ground motions and tsunamis associated with this event, more than 16 thousand people were killed and more than 360 thousand houses and buildings were totally or partially destroyed. Although the tsunamis were the primary cause of damage, the strong shaking, liquefaction and landslides also brought serious destruction. However, it was reported that the damage ratios of houses and buildings directly due to shaking were not as high as for the former earthquakes having comparable seismic intensities and PGA. The recorded ground motions at most stations where the seismic intensities and PGA were large had dominant periods shorter than 0.5s and relatively poor power in the 1-2s period range which has strong influence on the damage of few-stories wooden houses. The main reason for the short-period predominance is the amplification due to the low-velocity superficial layer and can be roughly explained by empirical amplification factors for 0.1-0.5s periods. Long-period ground motions were also observed. The velocity response spectra (5% dumping) for periods of 4-20s reached around 100cm/s at many stations, mainly in the Tohoku and Kanto regions. This level may be considered not very large taking into account that the Tohoku-Oki earthquake was an M 9-class event. In the Kanto district, at epicentral distances of 300-400km, liquefaction widely occurred at the artificially reclaimed land in Tokyo and Chiba bay areas and the basin of major rivers, such as the Tone and Ara. The damage (e.g., cutoff of lifelines and differential settlement of house-basements) due to liquefaction was very severe. In this paper we summarize the strong motion characteristics associated with the M 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake and review the latest results from the viewpoint of strong motions.

Content from these authors
© 2012 The Seismological Society of Japan
Previous article Next article