JDR Vol.9 No.3 pp. 248-251
doi: 10.20965/jdr.2014.p0248


The Largest Earthquakes We Should Prepare for

Toru Matsuzawa

Graduate School of Science, Tohoku University, 6-6 Aza-Aoba, Aramaki, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8578, Japan

March 24, 2014
April 11, 2014
June 1, 2014
largest earthquakes, M10, initial response to the earthquake and tsunami
We should estimate the size of the largest earthquakes carefully to minimize future earthquake losses. Taking the earth’s size and the thickness of the lithosphere into account, the largest earthquakes are estimated to have a magnitude (M) of 11. The occurrence of such a gigantic earthquake, however, could wipe out the human race because energy from an M11 earthquake would be as large as the asteroid impact that is thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. This would make it meaningless to prepare for M11 earthquakes. It would be more realistic to calculate the seismic moment expected from the longest plate boundary, i.e., from the northern to northwestern boundary of the Pacific plate. The plate boundary is about 10,100 km long and the magnitude of an earthquake occurring there is estimated at approximately 10, assuming that the fault is 200 kmwide and average slip is 20 m. This means that M10 events would be the largest earthquakes we could estimate as occurring. It will not be pragmatic, however, to attempt to devise measures against such extremely rare events. It is nonetheless important to numerically simulate beforehand what might happen during such events to quickly and accurately determine the initial response to quake shaking and tsunamis.
Cite this article as:
T. Matsuzawa, “The Largest Earthquakes We Should Prepare for,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.9 No.3, pp. 248-251, 2014.
Data files:
  1. [1] P. Bak, “How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organized Criticality,” Copernicus Books, 212pp., Springer, New York, 1996,
  2. [2] L. R. Sykes and R. C. Quittmeyer, “Repeat times of great earthquakes along simple plate boundaries,” in “Earthquake Prediction: An Internatinal Review,” Maurice Ewing Ser., 4, D.W. Simpson and P. G. Richard (Eds.), pp. 217-247, AGU, Washington D.C., 1981.
  3. [3] T. Nishimura, T. Hirasawa, S. Miyazaki, T. Sagiya, T. Tada, S. Miura, and K. Tanaka, “Temporal change of interplate coupling in northeastern Japan during 1995-2002 estimated from continuous GPS observations,” Geophys. J. Int., Vol.157, pp. 901-916, doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2004.02159.x, 2004.
  4. [4] Y. Yagi and Y. Fukahata, “Rupture process of the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake and absolute elastic strain release,” Geophys. Res. Lett., Vol.38, L19307, doi:10.1029/2011GL048701, 2011.
  5. [5] A. Hasegawa, K. Yoshida, and T. Okada, “Nearly complete stress drop in the 2011 Mw9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake,” Earth Planets Space, Vol.63, pp. 703-707, doi:10.5047/eps.2011.06.007, 2011.
  6. [6] B. A. Ivanov, “Numerical modeling of the largest terrestrial meteorite craters,” Sol. Syst. Res., Vol.39, pp. 381-409, 2005.
  7. [7] P. Schulte, L. Alegret, I. Arenillas, J. A. Arz, P. J. Barton, P. R. Bown, T. J. Bralower, G. L. Christeson, P. Cleys, C. S. Cockell, G. S. Collins, A. Deutsch, T. J. Goldin. K. Goto, J. M. Grajales-Nishimura, R. A. F. Grieve, S. P. S. Gulick, K. R. Johnson, W. Kiessling, C. Koeberl, D. A. Kring, K. G. MacLeod, T. Matsui, J. Melosh, A. Montanari, J. V. Morgan, C. R. Neal, D. J. Nichols, R. D. Norris, E. Pierazzo, G. Ravizza, M. Rebolledo-Vieyra, W. U. Reimold, E. Robin, T. Salge, R. P. Speijer, A. R. Sweet, J. Urrutia-Fucugauchi, V. Vajda, M. T. Whalen, and P. S. Willumsen, “The Chicxulub asteroid impact and mass extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary,” Science, Vol.327, pp. 1214-1218, doi:10.1126/science.1177265, 2010.
  8. [8] M. Ishii, “High-frequency rupture properties of the Mw9.0 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake,” Earth Planets Space, Vol.63, pp. 609-614, doi:10.5047/eps.2011.07.009, 2011.
  9. [9] R. McCaffrey, “The next great earthquake,” Science, Vol.315, pp. 1675-1676, doi:10.1126/science.1140173, 2007.
  10. [10] R. McCaffrey, “Global frequency of magnitude 9 earthquakes,” Geology, Vol.36, pp. 263-266, doi:10.1130/G24402A.1, 2008.

*This site is desgined based on HTML5 and CSS3 for modern browsers, e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera.

Last updated on Jul. 19, 2024