Expedition Menu
1. Introduction
The Question
3. Funding
4. Study Area
5. Background
Seismogenic Zone
7. Chief Scientists
8. The Journey
9. Ship Tour
10. Leaving Port
11. Seismic Method
12. Seismic Source
13. Seismic Recording
14. 3-D Acquisition
15. Life at Sea
16. In the Lab
17. Time to Depart
18. Data Processing
19. The 3-D Volume
20. Interpretation
21. Your Turn
22. Comparison
23, Publication
24. IODP Drilling

NSF Logo
This material is based
upon work supported
by the
National Science Foundation
Grant No. 0633234

NanTroSEIZE in 3-D

Imaging an Active Plate Boundary Fault
6. The Seismogenic Zone

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NanTroSEIZE - Imaging and Drilling the Megathrust and Seismogenic Zone

The Nankai Trough defines a trench along the seafloor extending approximately 770 kilometers from the Suruga Bay to where the Philippine Sea Plate slips (subducts) under southeast Japan. As a result of plate convergence and subduction, sediment on the downgoing Philippine Sea plate is continuously scraped off against and added to the overriding plate, forming a mass of highly deformed and faulted sediments called the accretionary prism. Plate convergence is this region has generated large-scale earthquakes and tsunamis every 120 years on average, including the historic earthquakes in 1944 and 1946 with magnitudes of 8.1 and 8.3, respectively. A primary goal of the NanTroSEIZE drilling project is gaining understanding of the deformation within the accretionary prism and its fault zones to better understand how earthquakes are generated and why some earthquakes cause disturbance at the seafloor that can produce tsunamis. However, drilling operations are very expensive, consequently every effort must be made to locate each drill hole accurately to sample the critical geologic features, such as the areas of the Megasplay fault and the Megathrust, along which fault slip results in devastating earthquakes, called the seismogenic zone (shown by red lines in the diagram below).

Rocks of the accretionary prism on either side of the seismogenic zone need to be sampled to understand the mechanics of faulting, and in one borehole, the top of the subducting Philippine Sea plate will be sampled by the drill. Sediments, shed from the nearby islands, sink through the ocean and are deposited on top of the accreationary prism. These sediments form layers that can provide information on the vertical motions of the underlying prism, potentially related to the history of seismic events.

Before drilling, we must first create the best possible image, in three-dimensions, extending 5 to 6 miles (8-9 kilometers) beneath the seafloor, which is the objective of this survey. The results of this survey will guide the selection of the drill sites, allow the samples to be related to the large-scale geologic structures, and will be critical to the placement of long-term monitoring instruments in the drillholes to measure any precusory events in advance of future earthquakes.

Nankai Trough Animation

Diagram showing proposed locations of drillsites superimposed on older, two-dimensional seismic profile, showing a vertical slice through the earth's crust with the major rock bodies identified by the different colors. (Modified from. H. Tobin)

©Copyright 2009
July 23, 2009

Send to Don Reed

Department of Geology
San Jose State University
NanTroSEIZE Drilling Objectives
Modified from IODP Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment

Let's speak with the U.S. scientists who are working with their Japanese colleagues to direct this study?