2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami

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2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
Date March 11, 2011 (2011-03-11)
Origin time 05:46:23 UTC
Magnitude 9.0 Mw[1]
Depth 20 mi (32 km)
Epicenter location 38°19′19″N 142°22′08″E / 38.322°N 142.369°E / 38.322; 142.369Coordinates: 38°19′19″N 142°22′08″E / 38.322°N 142.369°E / 38.322; 142.369
Countries or regions affected Japan
Total damage Flooding, landslides, fires, building and infrastructure damage, nuclear incidents including radiation releases
Tsunami Yes (10+ metres)
Landslides Yes
Aftershocks Many (more than 1021, 63+ above 6.0 MW)
Casualties 15,883 deaths
6,150 injured
2,651 missing

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami was an 9.0-magnitude earthquake followed by tsunami waves.[2] It was measured at 8.4 on the JMA seismic intensity scale[3][4] The earthquake happened 130 kilometres (81 mi) off Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, on the east coast of the Tōhoku of Japan, on March 11, 2011 at 05:46:23 UTC. It was at a depth of 24.4 km (15.2 miles).[5] It was the most powerful earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history.[6] It was also the fifth most powerful earthquake on Earth since modern record-keeping began in 1900.

On 8 November 2013, the Japanese National Police Agency report confirmed 15,883 deaths, 6,150 injured, and 2,651 people missing.[7]

Earthquake[change | change source]

Days before the main earthquake, there were several foreshocks. The biggest one was a 7.2 MW earthquake on 9 March, about 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the main earthquake's location.[8]

The United States Geological Survey said the centre of the earthquake was 373 kilometres (232 mi) from Tokyo. A 7.7 aftershock happened 30 minutes following the first quake. There have been more than 600 aftershocks bigger than magnitude 4.5 or more.[9]

The earthquake damaged buildings and started fires. The Shinkansen high speed bullet trains were stopped and Haneda Airport was closed after the quake.[10] Various train services around Japan were also stopped. Hundreds of flights to Japan were cancelled due to the earthquake and tsunami, affecting many people.[11] A large fire broke out at an oil refinery in Ichihara, Chiba prefecture.

The nuclear power plants shut down automatically. At first the Japanese Prime Minister said that no radioactive material leaked.[12] About 51,000 people were moved away from the nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima city when its cooling system failed.[13] There are fears that the nuclear reactor might meltdown.[14]

Tsunami[change | change source]

Damage at Point Hachinohe

The earthquake started a tsunami warning for Japan's Pacific coast and other countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Russia, Guam, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands (USA) and Taiwan. The tsunami warning issued by Japan was the most serious on its warning scale. It warned that the wave could be as much as 10 meters high.[15] A 0.5 meter high wave hit Japan's northern coast.[16] Kyodo news agency reported a four-metre-high tsunami hit the Iwate Prefecture in Japan. Miyagi Prefecture was flooded, with waves carrying buildings and cars along as they travelled inland.[17] In some areas the waves reached 10 km inland.[18]

At 9:28 p.m (HST) the National Weather Service issued a tsunami warning until 7 a.m. for all of Hawaii.[19] Tsunami waves were expected to arrive in Hawaii at 2:59 am local time.[20] A wave two meters high reached California, after travelling across the Pacific Ocean at a speed of 500 kilometres per hour.[18] A man in California was drowned after being swept into the ocean while trying to take a photograph of the tsunami wave.[21]

Effects[change | change source]

People getting off a train due to the closure of the railway network

Deaths–Injured–Missing[change | change source]

The Japanese National Police Agency has officially confirmed 15,883 deaths, 6,150 injured, and 2,651 people missing across 18 prefectures, as well as over 126,000 buildings damaged or destroyed.[7]

Nuclear disaster[change | change source]

The Fukushima nuclear disaster began on March 11 2011, just hours after the initial wave.[22][23] The connection to the electrical grid was broken. All power for cooling was lost and reactors started to overheat. There was a partial core meltdown in reactors 1, 2, and 3; hydrogen explosions destroyed the upper part of the buildings housing reactors 1, 3, and 4; an explosion damaged the containment inside reactor 2; fires broke out at reactor 4. Despite being initially shutdown, reactors 5 and 6 began to overheat. Spent nuclear fuel rods stored in pools in each reactor building overheated as water levels in the pools dropped. The accident is the second biggest nuclear accident after the Chernobyl disaster, but more complex as all reactors are involved.[24]

There were 4.4 million households that had their electricity supply cut off, including 11 nuclear power plants.[25]

Geophysical impact[change | change source]

The quake moved portions of northeast Japan by as much as 2.4 meters (7.9 ft) closer to North America,[26][27] making portions of Japan's landmass "wider than before," according to geophysicist Ross Stein.[27] Portions of Japan closest to the epicenter experienced the largest shifts.[27]

The Pacific plate itself may have moved westwards by up to 20 m (66 ft).[28] Other estimates put the amount of slippage at as much as 40 m (130 ft), covering an area some 300 to 400 km (190 to 250 mi) long by 100 km (62 mi) wide. If confirmed, this would be one of the largest recorded fault movements to have been associated with an earthquake.[29]

According to Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the earthquake shifted the Earth's axis by 25 centimeters (9.8 in). This deviation led to a number of small planetary changes, including the length of a day and the tilt of the Earth.[30] The speed of the Earth's rotation increased, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds due to the redistribution of Earth's mass.[31]

The axial shift was caused by the redistribution of mass on the Earth's surface, which changed the planet's moment of inertia. Due to the conservation of angular momentum, such changes of inertia result in small changes to the Earth's rate of rotation.[32] These are expected changes for an earthquake of this magnitude.[26][30][31]

Transport[change | change source]

The Tōhoku Expressway, which serves northern Japan, had to be closed due to cracks on the roads.[33] The whole railway network was closed, but was reopened hours after the earthquake.[34]

Television broadcast[change | change source]

In response to the great disaster, Emperor Akihito directly addressed his subjects in a television broadcast. This was the first time any emperor used television in this way.[35]

Other help[change | change source]

The effects of the earthquake in Tokyo

There were other people from other countries helping people after this disaster. For example, Google set up a people finder service, which allowed users to ask for or post information about missing people.[36][37]

References[change | change source]

  1. "USGS analysis as of 2011-03-12". Earthquake.usgs.gov. Archived from the original on 2011-03-13. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqinthenews/2011/usc0001xgp/neic_c0001xgp_wmt.php. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
  2. "Magnitude 8.9 - NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN 2011 March 11 05:46:23 UTC". 11 March 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-03-11. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/usc0001xgp.php. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  3. "Tsunami Warnings/Advisories". Japan Meteorological Agency. Japan Meteorological Agency. Archived from the original on 2011-03-12. http://www.jma.go.jp/en/tsunami/. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  4. "東北を中心に震度7の地震 宮城県で4・2メートルの津波 建物も流される". MSN産経ニュース. 2011-03-11. http://sankei.jp.msn.com/affairs/news/110311/dst11031114530002-n1.htm. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  5. "Tsunami hits north-eastern Japan after massive quake". 11 March 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-03-11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  6. "Historic World Earthquakes". earthquake.usgs.gov. 2011 [last update]. Archived from the original on 2011-05-20. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/historical_country_mag.php. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011 Tohoku district – off the Pacific Ocean – Earthquake: November 8, 2013". National Police Agency. http://www.npa.go.jp/archive/keibi/biki/higaijokyo_e.pdf. Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  8. Lovett, Richard A. (2011-03-14). "Japan Earthquake Not the "Big One"?". National Geographic News. Archived from the original on 2011-03-15. http://www.webcitation.org/5xDGM2J50. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
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  10. "Japan issues top tsunami warning after major quake". MediaCorp Channel NewsAsia. 11 March 2011. http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/1115777/1/.html. Retrieved 11 March 2011.
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  14. "BBC News - Japan quake: Huge explosion at Fukushima nuclear plant". bbc.co.uk. 2011 [last update]. Archived from the original on 2011-03-12. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12720219. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
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  16. . Reuters. 2011-03-11. Archived from the original on 2011-03-11. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/11/us-japan-quake-idUSTRE72A0SS20110311.
  17. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/japan-on-tsunami-alert-after-another-quake/story-e6frf7jo-1226019884379 Archived 18 April 2011 at WebCite
  18. 18.0 18.1 "BBC News - Japan earthquake: Tsunami hits north-east". bbc.co.uk. 2011 [last update]. Archived from the original on 2011-03-11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  19. http://www.weather.gov/ptwc/text.php?id=hawaii.2011.03.11.073148 Archived 11 March 2011 at WebCite
  20. "Tsunami Center Widens Warning to Include Hawaii". ABC News. 2011-03-11. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=13111144. Retrieved 2011-03-11.
  21. "US man killed by tsunami waves - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". abc.net.au. 2011 [last update]. Archived from the original on 2011-03-12. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/12/3162564.htm. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  22. "Japan's unfolding disaster 'bigger than Chernobyl'". New Zealand Herald. 2 April 2011. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10716671.
  23. "Explainer: What Went Wrong in Japan's Nuclear Reactors". IEEE Spectrum. 4 April 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-07-03. http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/energy/nuclear/explainer-what-went-wrong-in-japans-nuclear-reactors.
  24. "Analysis: A month on, Japan nuclear crisis still scarring," International Business Times (Australia). 9 April 2011, retrieved 12 April 2011; excerpt, According to James Acton, Associate of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "Fukushima is not the worst nuclear accident ever but it is the most complicated and the most dramatic ... This was a crisis that played out in real time on TV. Chernobyl did not." Archived 18 April 2011 at WebCite
  25. "People near Japan nuke plant told to leave – Yahoo!7". http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world/8997743/people-near-japan-nuke-plant-told-to-leave/.
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Quake shifted Japan by over two meters". Deutsche Welle. 2011-03-14. Archived from the original on 2011-03-14. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14909967,00.html. Retrieved 2011-03-14.
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  29. Reilly, Michael (2011-03-12). "Japan quake fault may have moved 40 metres". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 2011-03-12. http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2011/03/giant-quake-was-small-for-its.html. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Chai, Carmen (2011-03-11). "Japan's quake shifts earth's axis by 25 centimetres". Montreal Gazette (Postmedia News). Archived from the original on 2011-03-13. http://www.webcitation.org/5x95t0CLU. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
  31. 31.0 31.1 "Earth's day length shortened by Japan earthquake". CBS News. 2011-03-13. Archived from the original on 2011-03-13. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/13/scitech/main20042590.shtml. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
  32. Harris, Bethan (2011-03-14). "Can an earthquake shift the Earth's axis?". BBC News. Archived from the original on 2011-03-14. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/23degrees/2011/03/can_an_earthquake_shift_the_ea.html. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
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  35. Chancellor, Alexander. "The Japanese emperor's lesson for the British monarchy," The Guardian (UK). 17 March 201. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
  36. Mark Lee (11 March 2011). "Google Sets Up People-Finding Internet Service After Earthquake Hits Japan". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on 2011-03-11. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-11/google-says-creates-people-tracking-service-for-japan-earthquake.html. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  37. Google Japan (11 March 2011). "東北地方太平洋沖地震を受けて". Google Japan. http://googlejapan.blogspot.com/2011/03/blog-post_11.html. Retrieved 12 March 2011. (Japanese)

Other websites[change | change source]