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On the application of Mwp in the near field and the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake
Hirshorn, B.; Weinstein, S.; Tsuboi, S. (2013). On the application of Mwp in the near field and the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Pure Appl. Geophys. 170(6-8): 975-991.
In: Pure and Applied Geophysics. Birkhäuser: Basel. ISSN 0033-4553, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Tsunamis; Warning devices; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Hirshorn, B.
  • Weinstein, S.
  • Tsuboi, S.

    Tsunami Warning Centers issue rapid and accurate tsunami warnings to coastal populations by estimating the location and size of the causative earthquake as soon as possible after rupture initiation. Both US Tsunami Warning Centers have therefore been using Mwp to issue Tsunami Warnings 5–10 min after Earthquake origin time since 2002. However, because Mwp (Tsuboi et al., Bulletin of the Seismological society of America 85:606–613, 1995) is based on the far-field approximation to the P-wave displacement due to a double couple point source, we should only very carefully apply Mwp to data obtained in the near field, at distances of less than a few wavelengths from the fault. On the other hand, the surface waves from Great Earthquakes, including those that occur just offshore of populated areas, such as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, clip seismographs located near the fault. Because the first arriving P-waves from such large events are often on scale, Mwp should provide useful information, even for these Great Earthquakes. We therefore calculate Mwp from 18 unclipped STS-1 broadband P-wave seismograms, recorded at 2–15° distance from the Tohoku epicenter to determine if Mwp can usefully estimate Mw for this earthquake, using data obtained close to the epicenter. In this case there should be a good chance to get reliable Mwp values for stations at epicentral distances of 9–10°, since the source duration for the Tohoku earthquake is less than 200 s and the time window used to estimate Mwp is 120 s in duration. Our analysis indicates that Mwp does indeed give reliable results (Mw ~ 9.1) beginning at about 11° distance from the epicenter. The values of Mwp from seismic waveforms obtained at 11–15° epicentral distance from the Mw 9.1 off the east coast of Tohuku earthquake of March 11, 2011 fell within the range 9.1–9.3, and were available within 4–5 min after origin time. Even the Mwp values of 7.7–8.4, obtained at less than 5° epicentral distance, exceed the PTWC’s threshold of Mw 7.6 for issuing a regional tsunami warning to coastal populations within 1,000 km of the epicenter, and of Mw 6.9 for issuing a local tsunami warning to the coastal populations of Hawaii.

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