Abstract

We present differential bathymetry and sediment core data from the Japan Trench, sampled after the 2011 Tohoku-Oki (offshore Japan) earthquake to document that prominent bathymetric and structural changes along the trench axis relate to a large (∼27.7 km2) slump in the trench. Transient geochemical signals in the slump deposit and analysis of diffusive re-equilibration of disturbed SO42– profiles over time constrain the triggering of the slump to the 2011 earthquake. We propose a causal link between earthquake slip to the trench and rotational slumping above a subducting horst structure. We conclude that the earthquake-triggered slump is a leading agent for accretion of trench sediments into the forearc and hypothesize that forward growth of the prism and seaward advance of the deformation front by more than 2 km can occur, episodically, during a single-event, large mega-thrust earthquake.

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