Japan Earthquake 2011

On March 11 2011 a massive earthquake shook Japan.

Basic information.

  1. On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 pm local time, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake ruptured a 500-kilometre-long fault zone off the north-east coast of Japan. Its epicentre was 130 kilometres off Sendai and Honshu. it occurred at a pretty shallow depth of 32 kilometres. The earthquake violently shook north-east Honshu for six minutes, and collapsed its coastline by one meter. The thrusting moved Honshu about 2.4 meters eastward, and the seismic waves on the Pacific Ocean floor set off tsunami waves travelling at the speed of a jet plane (about 700 kilometres per hour). Waves 3 to 38 meters tall pounded Honshu’s coastline, destroying towns and villages and flooding areas up to 10 kilometres inland. Tsunami waves also swept across the Pacific, causing damage or disruptions in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.


Casualties from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan may be 30,000. More than 125,000 buildings have been washed away or seriously damaged; property damage is estimated to be more than $310 billion. Japan is used to dealing with seismic hazards, but the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami (as it has been officially named) were unusual even for Japan. History will record this event as among the world’s worst natural disasters, but geoscience textbooks will discuss it because of certain rare characteristics.


After shocks.

Two days prior to the massive earthquake, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake with three aftershocks greater than magnitude 6.0 hit offshore eastern Honshu. These quakes caused little damage even though the main rupture was only 8 kilometres deep. It also produced a maximum 60-centimetre-high tsunami, which struck the coast half an hour after the quake. This fooled everyone. Given the earthquake’s large magnitude and the smaller aftershocks that occurred as expected over the next day, no one thought that these could be fore shocks of an even larger event. But it now looks like those quakes were all fore shocks for the magnitude-9.0 quake that hit two days later, just 40 kilometres north of the magnitude-7.2 event.

Japan is now back to the way it was before the disaster. As you can see in the picture below the country is a beautiful country and continues to be that way.

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