Submarine landslide potential near the megasplay fault at the Nankai subduction zone

Matt J. Ikari, Michael Strasser, Demian M. Saffer, Achim J. Kopf

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29 Scopus citations


We investigate the mechanics of slope failures on the Nankai accretionary complex offshore Japan in the vicinity of a major out-of-sequence thrust fault (termed the "megasplay"). Incorporating laboratory-measured shear strength of slope sediments sampled during Integrated Ocean Drilling Project (IODP) Expeditions 315 and 316 with local seafloor slope angles from bathymetric data and constraints on in-situ effective stress conditions from drilling, we find that slopes in the study area are stable and submarine landslides are not expected to occur under static conditions. In order to assess the possibility of slope failure triggered by coseismic rupture of the megasplay fault, we use empirical relations for strong ground motion attenuation from earthquakes with Mw 6-9. We find that the slope sediments should be stable based on computations from one model, developed from a catalog of worldwide subduction zone earthquakes (Youngs et al., 1997). However, using a different model developed primarily from a catalog of crustal earthquakes in Japan (Kanno et al., 2006), we find that slopes should be unstable for earthquakes 8≤Mw≤9, and possibly unstable for events with 6≤Mw<8, depending on the proximity of rupture to the seafloor. Considering limitations of the models and geologic observations of slope failure recurrence, the true slope stability is likely to be in between the predictions of the two models, and we suggest that it may be modulated by long-term pore pressure fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-462
Number of pages10
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 15 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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