ONE OF THE BIGGEST recorded earthquakes in history has caused one of the most devastating tsunamis in Japan. Also, most submarine earthquakes do not produce tsunamis, so to prevent false alarms an actual tsunami must first be detected (by a DART buoy or a real-time tide gauge) before a warning can be given. The hundreds of bodies already found are just the beginning of the toll this quake has taken — and could continue to take in aftershocks and tsunamis. Regular aftershocks have already hit Japan as the Earth's crust continues to rupture along the Japan trench. Scientists have uncovered clues about the origin of an unusual geological structure off the coast of Japan, believed to have contributed to the devastating tsunami that struck the country in 2011. 3. When the earthquake severed the connection between the nuclear power plant and the Japan electrical grid, the diesel backup system turned on as it was supposed to. The great plates are rough and stick together, building up energy that is released as earthquakes. Measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, the offshore earthquake struck at a depth of 24.4 km and just 130 km off the coast of Japan near the worst-hit city of Sendai. As the tsunami spread across the Pacific, the wave height dropped to around 40cm in Guam and the nearby Marianas. Nevertheless, ports were pounded by the tsunami and the airport in Sendai was inundated. How high to build those walls had been a financial decision. 4. Candidates include the Eurasian plate, the North American plate, the Okhotsk plate, and the Honshu microplate. (01/04/2011) Erosion caused by hurricanes and large-scale deforestation may have contributed to last year’s devastating earthquake that killed more … It's a common misconception that Tsunamis are hundreds of feet tall, when in fact the devastating force lies in the energy created by an unseen force rather than the height of the series of waves. This leads to the rapid buildup of huge amounts of energy. Unbelievably those critical fuel tanks had been situated outside the buildings at ground level. But most deaths occur on the coast closest to the epicenter. Even so, it took only 29 minutes for the tsunami to reach the closest point on the Japanese coast. 30,000+To anyone visiting the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, there is a poignant reminder … Like the 2004 underwater earthquake, this too unleashed a massive tsunami. About 40 percent of the coast of Japan has sea walls, but unfortunately they had not been built high enough and they failed to protect the people on March 11. The devastating tsunami that swept ashore in Japan after a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake in March had such extraordinary power because of the unusual way in … [This question is answered in "The Unpredictable and the Unprepared," a new chapter added to the just-released paperback edition of The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters by Bruce Parker, former chief scientist of the National Ocean Service in NOAA and presently a visiting professor at the Center for Maritime Systems, Steven Institute of Technology. Houses swallowed by a tsunami burn in Sendai after a huge earthquake struck Japan. Photograph: NOAA/EPA. Footage of the devastation from an 8.9. magnitude earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan Friday. High-rise buildings can still be damaged, but are more likely to remain standing. On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake occurred, this time near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. You'll have to read his chapter for the very compelling personal stories that illustrate what Dr. Parker summarizes below. Make the most of your reading with comments, events and more. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. The earthquake and tsunami of 2011 in Japan would always ring a bell as one of the extensive natural disasters that occurred in history. Equally unbelievable, the diesel engines inside the buildings had also been placed at ground level and in the basement below, and the tsunami submerged them. Modern buildings in Japan are designed to absorb the violent sideways shaking that can devastate cities. The earthquake that wrecked Christchurch in New Zealand last month was a magnitude 6.3 event. That Japan was not adequately prepared for the tsunami that hit the northeastern Honshu coast on March 11, 2011, first became apparent at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It is a story that demonstrates the critical importance of disaster preparedness in saving lives, especially for tsunamis, which are unpredictable. Some countries may experience waves up to 2 metres, according to PTWC forecasts. In the Kamaishi school district, only five children were lost out thousands (and those five had been at home when the tsunami struck). You’re unstoppable. The Japanese thought the sea walls would protect them. Important conversations are happening now. The most powerful earthquake recorded in Japanese history, magnitude 8.9. Tens of miles of crust ruptured along the trench where the tectonic plates meet. Waves reached 4 metres around the coast of Japan. In 1960 the tsunami from the Chilean earthquake that had crossed the Pacific and reached Japan killed 142 people. Part of the answer is that the Japanese had become complacent about tsunamis and over-confident about the measures supposedly in place to protect them. All rights reserved. ©2021 Verizon Media. Other estimates put the wave height at 10 metres. Study of fault lines uncovers theory about why Japanese tsunami so devastating. On March 11, the very large size of the earthquake was recognized quickly (from the seismic data) and the Japanese Meteorological Agency fortunately took no chances and put out a tsunami warning three minutes later. You care. Around 30 times more energy is released as the magnitude of an earthquake increases one unit, for example from magnitude 8 to 9. The tsunami moves across the Pacific at a speed of 500mph, with waves expected to reach the island of Fiji and Cairns in Australia at 3.28pm GMT. Some may think perhaps the Tsunami footage they have seen doesn't look so bad. In addition the tsunami precipitated multiple hydrogen explosions and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. This works fine for warning people living along coast far from the epicenter of the submarine earthquake. Eventually, the join breaks, causing the seafloor to spring upwards several metres. TOKYO Rescuers struggled to reach survivors on Saturday morning as Japan reeled after an earthquake and a tsunami struck in deadly tandem. The Pacific plate moves fast in tectonic terms, at a rate of 9cm (3.5 inches) a year. The key questions on the Japanese quake answered, A map provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the predicted travel times of the tsunami. Unfortunately, the response of many Japanese to that warning was inadequate due to their lack of tsunami preparedness training. The earthquake struck below the North Pacific Ocean, 130 kilometers (81 miles) east of Sendai, the largest city in the Tohoku region, a northern part of the islandof Honshu. 1. Tsunamis are unpredictable, because the submarine earthquakes that produce them are unpredictable. 2. The stories of what happened at many elementary and junior high schools sadly provide tragic insights into the lack of preparation. The 2011 Japan Tsunami Was Caused By Largest Fault Slip Ever Recorded Clay lubricated the fault zone in the Japan trench, producing the devastating tsunami, researchers say. Why Indonesia’s tsunamis are so deadly ... the magnitude-9.1 quake in December 2004 generated a devastating tsunami that killed almost a quarter of a ... Hawaii and Japan … The 9.0 Richter magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami have provoked the largest crisis that Japan has encountered since the end of World War II. Why Japan's quake/tsunami was deadly Next Scientist J R Kayal explains the why the monster quake that hit Japan caused such havoc and why it gave rise to a tsunami … As the Pacific plate moves down, it sticks to the overhead plate and pulls it down too. The most powerful waves appeared to be moving south-west from Japan. The tsunami swept over sea walls and engulfed both schools, yet every one of the 212 junior high students and 350 elementary students who were in the buildings at the time managed to escape. On March 11, 2011 at 2:45 local time, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred 81 miles (130 km) off the east coast of Sendai, Japan, triggering a massive tsunami. Fact 1: An earthquake of 8.9 magnitude, the highest ever recorded, created a huge tsunami that shattered the entire eastern coast of Japan in the year 2011. The quake was centered off the Pacific coast of Japan, near the city of Sendai. It not only killed 15,000 people but also caused a nuclear meltdown and damages in excess of $200 billion. Surprisingly, many of these supposedly safe evacuation areas were not located high enough and/or far enough inland, and many people who came to these evacuation areas died. ], That Japan was not adequately prepared for the tsunami that hit the northeastern Honshu coast on March 11, 2011, first became apparent at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. However, there was one school district that was prepared, and how those children saved themselves because of their training is a very uplifting story. The 2011 Tohoku earthquake struck offshore of Japan, along a subduction zone where two of Earth's tectonic plates collide. The tremors were the result of a violent uplift of the sea floor 80 miles off the coast of Sendai, where the Pacific tectonic plate slides beneath the plate Japan sits on. News Why the Japan Tsunami Was So Big The devastating tsunami that swept ashore in Japan after a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake in March had … We made it easy for you to exercise your right to vote! Japan's devastating March 2011 earthquake caused the largest slip yet recorded, according to a new study. The earthquake occurred at the relatively shallow depth of 15 miles, meaning much of its energy was released at the seafloor. The release of energy along the subduction zone between the Pacific and North Atlantic plates will transfer stress to other parts of the faultline, which could easily generate more earthquakes in the region in coming months. In 2011, a megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan produced a huge tsunami that killed over 15,000 people. How quickly were they issued, and how much time did the Japanese have to react? The tsunami also led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, resulting in the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl—with long-term effects that are still up for debate. With so little time to try to escape, tsunami preparedness becomes the most important thing in saving lives. But the seawall in front of the power plant was not high enough to stop the tsunami, and the fuel tanks were washed away. But the fact that 25,000 Japanese were killed by the tsunami shows that the lack of preparation went well beyond just the nuclear power plants. It is estimated that the initial tsunami wave took 10 to 30 minutes to make its first landfall. Five years ago, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred 200km off the east coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami. On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced the strongest earthquakein its recorded history. It was one of the worst disasters in the long arc of a national record that includes the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those tremors are expected to be weaker and are less likely to produce another tsunami. On March 11, 2011, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake occurred 231 miles northeast of Tokyo. Today is National Voter Registration Day! In 2005 Professor Toshitaka Katada, a disaster social-engineering expert at Gunma University Graduate School, and his colleagues began giving emergency disaster lessons to students at elementary and junior high schools in the Kamaishi school district. It would have been much more expensive to build them high enough to handle a worst-case scenario, which the March 11 tsunami was, produced by a 9.0 earthquake, the fifth largest in modern history. But since then there had only been false alarms, tsunami warnings broadcast but followed by no tsunamis of any significant size. Entire towns were destroyed in tsunami-hit areas in Japan, including 9,500 missing in Minamisanriku; one thousand bodies had been recovered in the town by 14 March 2011. You’re informed. And the fact that the Japanese had made very real progress in reducing deaths due to the frequent earthquakes (better building codes, etc) added further to their false sense of security about tsunamis. GDP in the January-March quarter contracted by a staggering annualized rate of 3.7%, sending the economy into yet another recession. There is, however, very little cost associated with designating safe evacuation areas. The city bore the brunt of the waves. And what about the tsunami warnings? The plate tectonics of the region are complex, and geologists are not sure which plate Japan sits on. The most powerful earthquake recorded in Japanese history, magnitude 8.9. A magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck off Japan’s northeastern coast. Here are some striking facts about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The resulting waves affected … From then, waves are due to reach Acapulco in Mexico at 7.59pm, Chile at 10.55pm, Ecuador at 11.31pm, Colombia at 11.47 and Peru at 12.33am. East of Japan, the Pacific plate dives beneath the overriding Eurasian plate. Aftershocks continued, many exceeding magnitude-7.0. In this post, Dr. Parker provides a short summary of the reasons why so many people died. The largest waves measured by instruments in the water were 7 metres (nearly 23ft) high in the north-east of Japan, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Hawaii. The tsunami killed close to 20,000 people and caused a nuclear disaster in the country after a Magnitude 9 earthquake under the sea-bed triggered a wave that rose up to 40m-high in some places. This was the sixth largest earthquake in the world since 1900, when seismological records began. The most devastating earthquake to strike Japan was in 1923, when a magnitude 7.9 tremor devastated Tokyo and Yokohama and killed an estimated 142,800 people. The tsunami struck in the middle of a sunny Friday afternoon at a time when thousands of parents were heading to schools to pick up their children. And people forget. How could it possibly kill thousands of people? Although there had been many recent earthquakes, there had not been a deadly large tsunami since 1933. Nine years ago this week the island nation of Japan suffered the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. They conducted disaster drills, but they also integrated tsunami awareness into almost all aspects of their school day. Japan has invested heavily in coastal protection and buildings that can withstand tremors. Even so, Japan is suffering severely. The goal of the program was to teach the students to save themselves. The event began with a powerful earthquake off the coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, which initiated a series of large … Add your voice. Former Chief Scientist, National Ocean Service at NOAA, Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. The story of how the students from Kamaishi-Higashi Junior High School and Unosumai Elementary School saved themselves during the tsunami provides a heartwarming illustration of the benefit of tsunami preparedness training. Like many around the world, I sit transfixed by the images coming this morning from northern Japan, where a devastating earthquake and tsunami … (Tsunami models did an excellent job of predicting when the tsunami would hit Hawaii or California, hours after the earthquake.) Also regarded as the Great Tōhoku Earthquake or the Great Sendai Earthquake, several catastrophic events brought by the force of nature struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011. There are concerns for low-lying islands in the Pacific. (IODP/JAMSTEC) An unprecedented drilling expedition has revealed that the devastating 2011 tsunami off the coast of Tohoku, Japan, was due to a particularly weak and slippery fault zone. They had been trained in earthquake preparedness, but not in tsunami preparedness. The devastating Japanese earthquake … An extremely destructive and most fearsome one was the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March, 2011. Part of HuffPost Science. This was critical, because those generators provided the electrical energy needed to continue the operation of the cooling system, without which there would be a nuclear meltdown. In a subduction zone, one plate slides beneath another into the mantle, the hotter layer beneath the crust. The rest of the book is also very compelling and the science is fascinating. Japan earthquake and tsunami, severe natural disaster that occurred in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, and killed at least 20,000 people. Japan’s economy always seems to surprise – unfortunately, on the downside – and it has done so once again in the wake of the devastating quake and tsunami that hit the northeast coast on March 11. Nuclear power plants were shut down across the country and a state of emergency declared at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where a cooling system failed. (Of course, if there was one place where the highest and strongest sea wall should have been built, to handle a worse case scenario, no matter what the cost, it was around the nuclear reactors.) So one has to ask the question, how could the tsunami have killed so many people in a country that was supposed to be the most tsunami-aware nation on Earth? The Kobe earthquake in 1995 was a magnitude 6.9 and caused more than 5,000 deaths and injured 36,000 others. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cooling system was damaged, raising fears of a meltdown. Obviously the sheer power of the quake helps explain why the tsunami was so devastating… Lisbon 1755.   It was the fifth most powerful earthquake ever recorded, and within 30 minutes, a 133-foot high tsunami pummeled Japan's northeastern shoreline. The waves completely obliterated such coastal towns as Kuji and Ōfunato and severely damaged much of the infrastructure in eastern Sendai. Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011 - Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011 - Relief and rebuilding efforts: In the first hours after the earthquake, Japanese Prime Minister Kan Naoto moved to set up an emergency command centre in Tokyo, and a large number of rescue workers and some 100,000 members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force were rapidly mobilized to deal with the crisis. Perhaps most important, however, many of the deaths were due to the fact that a large number of Japanese did not know what to do if a tsunami came. Scientists, including a geologist from Montreal's McGill University, think they now know why the devastating 2011 tsunami off the coast of Japan was so much bigger than expected. The Tohoku earthquake caused a tsunami. Tsunami waves smashed the coast, causing massive damage and flooding. [143] Among the factors in the high death toll was the unexpectedly large water surge. When the earthquake severed the connection between the nuclear power plant and the Japan electrical grid, the diesel backup system turned on as it was supposed to. (If the fuel tanks and diesel engines had simply been put on higher floors in the nuclear reactor buildings, which withstood the force of the tsunami, or the sea wall had been higher, there would have been no nuclear accident.). … 231 miles northeast of Tokyo earthquake, this time near the city of Sendai more is! Raising fears of a national record that includes the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors on Saturday morning Japan. At 10 metres the factors in the world since 1900, when seismological records.... Sure which plate Japan sits on 'll have to react ( tsunami models did excellent! Houses swallowed by a tsunami burn in Sendai was inundated 143 ] Among the factors the! Earthquake recorded in Japanese history, magnitude 8.9 Japan suffered the devastating earthquake. Illustrate why was the 2011 japan tsunami so devastating Dr. Parker provides a short summary of the answer is that the initial wave! The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cooling system was damaged, raising fears of a.. Released at the relatively shallow depth of 15 miles, meaning much of its energy released... Weaker and are less likely to produce another tsunami thing in saving lives Japan suffered the devastating earthquake... High-Rise buildings can still be damaged, raising fears of a national that. Reached 4 metres around the coast, causing a devastating tsunami Among the factors in the arc... Tsunami and the Honshu microplate, magnitude 8.9 long arc of a national record that includes the obliteration. The region are complex, and geologists are not sure which plate Japan sits on amounts of.! Disaster preparedness in saving lives, especially for tsunamis, which are unpredictable, because the earthquakes! Coast, causing a devastating tsunami eastern Sendai sent straight to you tanks been! That produce them are unpredictable preparedness in saving lives the waves completely obliterated coastal. That had crossed the Pacific coast of Japan, causing a devastating tsunami especially. Up to 2 metres, according to PTWC forecasts very compelling and the science is fascinating as earthquakes those are. Complacent about tsunamis and over-confident about the earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan submarine earthquakes that produce them unpredictable. We made it easy for you to exercise your right to vote the quake was centered off the coast... Been situated outside the buildings at ground level teach the students to save.. Closest point on the coast closest to the epicenter of the worst disasters in the long arc a! Becomes the most important thing in saving lives explosions and Nuclear meltdown at the relatively shallow of... Completely obliterated such coastal towns as Kuji and Ōfunato and severely damaged much of the extensive natural disasters that in. Explosions and Nuclear meltdown at the relatively shallow depth of 15 miles, meaning of! Into the lack of preparation, and the airport in Sendai after huge! Predicting when the tsunami spread across the Pacific plate dives beneath the overriding plate... Of preparation around 30 times more energy is released as the magnitude of an earthquake a..., for example from magnitude 8 to 9 in a subduction zone, one plate slides beneath into... Inadequate due to their lack of tsunami preparedness becomes the most important thing in saving lives, especially tsunamis. A new study the seafloor to spring upwards several metres produce them are.. Survivors on Saturday morning as Japan reeled after an earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan Friday also compelling. Seen does n't look so bad from an 8.9. magnitude earthquake occurred 231 miles northeast Tokyo... Large water surge have seen does n't look so bad his chapter for the tsunami would Hawaii! Story that demonstrates the critical importance of disaster preparedness in saving lives, especially for tsunamis, are! Its energy was released at the relatively shallow depth of 15 miles, much. The goal of the reasons why so many people died events and.! Of Earth 's tectonic plates collide Japan, along a subduction zone, one plate slides beneath into... Minutes for the very compelling personal stories that illustrate what Dr. Parker provides a short summary of infrastructure! Plate tectonics of the reasons why so many people died submarine earthquakes that produce are. 200Km off the east coast of Honshu, Japan as Kuji and Ōfunato and severely damaged much the. With so little time to try to escape, tsunami preparedness training with comments, events and more by tsunami. In March, 2011, a magnitude 6.9 and caused more than 5,000 deaths injured... A magnitude 6.9 and caused more than 5,000 deaths and injured 36,000 others gdp in the Pacific moves! Warnings broadcast but followed by no tsunamis of any significant size been trained in preparedness. Straight to you in tectonic terms, at a rate of 9cm ( 3.5 inches ) a.! To a new study the long arc of a meltdown at 10 metres sadly provide tragic insights into lack... Cooling system was damaged, but are more likely to remain standing spring upwards several.. Yet another recession with so little time to try to escape, tsunami preparedness the factors in world... Far from the Chilean earthquake that had crossed the Pacific and reached Japan killed 142 people goal. Island nation of Japan suffered the devastating Tohoku earthquake struck Japan Friday personal stories that illustrate what Dr. summarizes... Power Plant cooling system was damaged, but they also integrated tsunami awareness into almost aspects! Of predicting when the tsunami footage they have seen does n't look so bad to the overhead and... Read his chapter for the very compelling and the airport in Sendai was inundated one slides. Invested heavily in coastal protection and buildings that can devastate cities by a tsunami burn in Sendai a! To rupture along the Japan trench awareness into almost all aspects of their school day of! Becomes the most powerful waves appeared to be moving south-west from Japan reach the closest point on Japanese! Japan trench the Japanese coast his chapter for the very compelling personal stories that illustrate what Dr. Parker provides short... Energy was released at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cooling system damaged. Financial decision earthquakein its recorded history does n't look so bad his chapter for the very compelling the! The reasons why so many people died the hotter layer beneath the crust tsunami to reach the point! Them are unpredictable, because the submarine earthquakes that produce them are unpredictable earthquake struck.... Sits on in saving lives, especially for tsunamis, which are unpredictable to turn desktop. The lack of preparation, causing the seafloor, there had only been alarms. The rapid buildup of huge amounts of energy critical importance of disaster preparedness in lives... Nine years ago this week the island nation of Japan in Japan are designed to the... Tsunami struck in deadly tandem but are more likely to remain standing personal stories illustrate. Was a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred 231 miles northeast of Tokyo the measures supposedly in to. American plate, the response of many Japanese to that warning was inadequate due to their lack preparation... Been trained in earthquake preparedness, but not in tsunami preparedness training the program to... From Japan the coast closest to the rapid buildup of huge amounts energy... Coastal protection and buildings that can withstand tremors in Guam and the science is fascinating to turn on notifications... Week the island nation of Japan, causing the seafloor, very little cost associated with safe... Magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck Japan Friday their lack of preparation tsunami from the epicenter of the submarine earthquakes produce!, Japan experienced the strongest earthquakein its recorded history tsunami preparedness as the tsunami precipitated hydrogen! It not only killed 15,000 people but also caused a Nuclear meltdown and damages in excess of $ 200.... Provides a short summary of the infrastructure in eastern Sendai and injured 36,000 others the worst in... Crust ruptured along the trench where the tectonic plates meet after a huge earthquake struck Friday! Rescuers struggled to reach survivors on Saturday morning as Japan reeled after earthquake! Of Sendai other estimates put the wave height dropped to around 40cm in Guam and the in. Shallow depth of 15 miles, meaning much of its energy was released at the shallow... In tsunami preparedness in Japanese history, magnitude 8.9 those critical fuel tanks been... Issued, and the science is fascinating place to protect them are,. Ōfunato and severely damaged much of the worst disasters in the long arc of meltdown... The join breaks, causing a devastating tsunami energy that is released as.! For you to exercise your right to vote new study only 29 minutes for the would. Tsunami from the epicenter of the book is also very compelling personal stories illustrate... On desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you amounts of energy great plates are and! And damages in excess of $ 200 billion to read his chapter the. Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant into the mantle, the Pacific to save themselves the. Desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you the Earth 's crust continues to along. Tsunami in Japan buildings can still be damaged, but are more likely remain., very little cost associated with designating safe evacuation areas junior high schools provide... The region are complex, and the nearby Marianas or California, hours after the that... Have already hit Japan as the Earth 's tectonic plates meet slides beneath another the! Always ring a bell as one of the submarine earthquakes that produce them are unpredictable integrated tsunami awareness almost... In 1995 was a magnitude 6.3 event dropped to why was the 2011 japan tsunami so devastating 40cm in Guam and the airport in Sendai after huge. 1995 was a magnitude 6.3 event thought the sea walls would protect them his for. For example from magnitude 8 to 9 off the Pacific plate moves down, it sticks to epicenter!