In the minutes following a large earthquake, robust characterization of the seismic rupture can be obtained from full wavefield records at local distances or from early signals recorded by regional broadband seismometers. We focus here on the latter configuration, and evaluate the individual and joint performances of the early low‐frequency elastic phases (W phase) and the recently discovered prompt elastogravity signals (PEGS). The 2011 Mw 9.1 Tohoku–Oki earthquake is a natural target for this evaluation, because the high quality of global and regional networks enabled to gather the best PEGS data set so far. We first confirm that the well‐established W‐phase method, using records from global seismological networks, is able to provide a reliable centroid moment tensor solution 22 min after the earthquake origin time. Using regional stations, an accurate W‐phase solution can be obtained more rapidly, down to 10 min after origin time. On the other hand, a PEGS‐based source inversion can provide even earlier, starting 3 min after origin time, a lower bound of the seismic moment (Mw 8.6) and constraints on the focal mechanism type. However, relying solely on PEGS introduces uncertainties caused by the hindering seismic noise and trade‐offs between source parameters that limit the accuracy of source determination. We show that incorporating even a few early W phase signals to the PEGS data set reduces these uncertainties. Using more complete W phase and PEGS data sets available 5 min after origin time enables to converge towards a result close to the Global Centroid Moment Tensor solution.

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