Fault behavior during an earthquake is controlled by the state of stress on the fault. Complex coseismic fault slip on large earthquake faults has recently been observed by dense seismic networks, which complicates strong motion evaluations for potential faults. Here we show the three-dimensional prestress field related to the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake. The estimated stress field reveals a spatially variable state of stress that forced the fault to slip in a direction predicted by the “Wallace and Bott Hypothesis.” The stress field also exposes the pre-condition of pore fluid pressure on the fault. Large coseismic slip occurred in the low-pressure part of the fault. However, areas with highly pressured fluid also showed large displacement, indicating that the seismic moment of the earthquake was magnified by fluid pressure. These prerupture data could contribute to improved seismic hazard evaluations.
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