Could a Sumatra-like megathrust earthquake occur in the south Ryukyu subduction zone?

Jing Yi Lin, Jean Claude Sibuet, Shu Kun Hsu, Wen Nan Wu

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25 Scopus citations


A comparison of the geological and geophysical environments between the Himalaya-Sumatra and Taiwan-Ryukyu collision-subduction systems revealed close tectonic similarities. Both regions are characterized by strongly oblique convergent processes and dominated by similar tectonic stress regimes. In the two areas, the intersections of the oceanic fracture zones with the subduction systems are characterized by trench-parallel high free-air gravity anomaly features in the fore-arcs and the epicenters of large earthquakes were located at the boundary between the positive and negative gravity anomalies. These event distributions and high-gravity anomalies indicate a strong coupling degree of the intersection area, which was probably induced by a strong resistance of the fracture features during the subduction. Moreover, the seismicity distribution in the Ryukyu area was very similar to the pre-seismic activity pattern of the 2004 Sumatra event. That is, thrust-type earthquakes with a trench-normal P-axis occurred frequently along the oceanward side of the mainshock, whereas only a few thrust earthquakes occurred along the continentward side. Therefore, the aseismic area located west of 128°E in the western Ryukyu subduction zone could have resulted from the strong plate locking effect beneath the high gravity anomaly zone. By analogy with the tectonic environment of the Sumatra subduction zone, the occurrence of a potential Sumatra-like earthquake in the south Ryukyu arc is highly likely and the rupture will mainly propagate continentward to fulfill the region of low seismicity (approximately 125° E to 129°E; 23°N to 26.5°N), which may generate a hazardous tsunami.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalEarth, Planets and Space
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2014


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