It has been exactly a year since the devastating quake in Japan, subsequent tsunami and nuclear meltdown. An event which was so profoundly shocking, and a reminder that the great natural disasters of the world can strike even the richest and most well prepared nations.
Tsunami map (updated link 12/03/12)
The earthquake moved the entire island of Honshu (the largest one in Japan) 2.4m to the east and shifted the entire earth’s orbit by 10-25cm. It was the largest recorded earthquake to have hit Japan and the fifth largest since modern instruments began recording around the turn of the twentieth century.
Every week in our department, there is an “Earthquake of the week” seminar where the leading geophysicists other interested parties of the department come together to have a look at the preliminary data and discuss major events during the week. This particular week, the entire department turned up, to share in collective shock, the events of the previous few days and to learn and discover what had happened geologically.
It was all preliminary data so it might not be true anymore but we heard about how there were three major earthquakes in very rapid succession in the region as one triggered another that triggered another, by transferring the stresses through the earth’s crust. It explained how such a large earthquake could occur in an area where the fault section wasn’t meant to be long enough to cause such a massive earthquake (hence the lake of preparedness at the Fukushima nuclear site). I remember spending an hour in pretty much awe at this brand new science being laid out, hot off the presses, intriguing, exciting, but very, very emotionally raw.
In doing some research for a previous post on Google earth and caves a week ago or so, I came across some more work by Google in Japan. Google Japan have been doing some great stuff imaging the tsunami hit regions of Japan, providing some before and after images which really hit home about the impacts of natural disasters on the planet and peoples homes and livelihoods. Its called the Memories for the Future project. You can now even view Street View in 3D for a really immersive experience.