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Abstract

Large earthquakes and related tsunamis serve as triggering mechanisms that generate turbidity currents which form turbidites. The event deposits from the recent 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake and tsunami are observed throughout a wide area along the Pacific coast of Tohoku, northern Japan, extending from the coast through the shelf and slope, to the trench floor. Spatio-temporal correlation of turbidites and other tsunamigenic deposits, such as those generated in the 2011 event, can be used to reconstruct the recurrence history of large earthquakes and tsunamis. Here we use sediment cores and sub-bottom profiles to analyse the depositional setting along the Japan Trench, and show that the environment is ideal for preserving turbidites. The subducting Pacific Plate creates graben or basins along the trench floor that accommodate the episodic deposition of fine-grained turbidites; and interseismic hemipelagic deposits that form with high sedimentation rates along the Japan Trench effectively cover earthquake-induced turbidites and preserve the deposits as a geological record of large earthquakes. Therefore, small deep-sea basins with high sedimentation rates, such as in and around the Japan Trench floor, are favourable environments for studies of turbidite palaeoseismology.

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