Joint estimate of the co-seismic 2011 Tohoku earthquake fault slip and post-seismic viscoelastic relaxation by GRACE data inversion
Satellite-derived gravity data offer a novel perspective for understanding the physics of megathrust earthquakes at subduction zones. Nonetheless, their temporal resolution and observational errors make it difficult to discern the different phases of the seismic cycle, as the elastostatic deformation (co-seismic) and the stress relaxation by viscous flow (post-seismic). To overcome these difficulties and to take advantage of the physical constraints on the temporal evolution and on the spatial pattern of the earthquake-induced gravity disturbances, we have jointly estimated the fault slip of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the rheological stratification by means of a Bayesian inversion of GRACE data time series and within the framework of spherically symmetric self-gravitating compressible viscoelastic Earth models. This approach, in addition to improve the exploitation of satellite-derived gravity data, allows us (i) to constrain the fault slip taking advantage of information from both the co- and post-seismic signatures and (ii) to investigate the trade-off between the fault slip and the shallow rheological stratification. In this respect, it can be used to improve the modelling of crustal displacements from GPS data, even if their higher accuracy and temporal resolution allow to discriminate well the co-seismic signature from the others.