GPS Measures Deformation in Subduction Zone: Island Arc Setting

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Japanese earthquake and tsunami

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Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS)


This animation shows that GPS can record the movement of the leading edge of the overlying continental plate in a subduction zone. The plates are locked and the overlying plate is forced back. When friction is overcome and strain is released, the GPS receiver will snap back toward its original position. This nimation is exaggerated to depict the relative motion of plates and GPS as seen in the 2011 Magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan.

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