Research ArticleGEOPHYSICS

Mechanism of the 2015 volcanic tsunami earthquake near Torishima, Japan

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Science Advances  04 Apr 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 4, eaao0219
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao0219

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Tsunami earthquakes are a group of enigmatic earthquakes generating disproportionally large tsunamis relative to seismic magnitude. These events occur most typically near deep-sea trenches. Tsunami earthquakes occurring approximately every 10 years near Torishima on the Izu-Bonin arc are another example. Seismic and tsunami waves from the 2015 event [Mw (moment magnitude) = 5.7] were recorded by an offshore seafloor array of 10 pressure gauges, ~100 km away from the epicenter. We made an array analysis of dispersive tsunamis to locate the tsunami source within the submarine Smith Caldera. The tsunami simulation from a large caldera-floor uplift of ~1.5 m with a small peripheral depression yielded waveforms remarkably similar to the observations. The estimated central uplift, 1.5 m, is ~20 times larger than that inferred from the seismologically determined non–double-couple source. Thus, the tsunami observation is not compatible with the published seismic source model taken at face value. However, given the indeterminacy of Mzx, Mzy, and M{tensile} of a shallow moment tensor source, it may be possible to find a source mechanism with efficient tsunami but inefficient seismic radiation that can satisfactorily explain both the tsunami and seismic observations, but this question remains unresolved.

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