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 A massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan, Friday afternoon, on 11
March 2011 @ 0546 GMT
 The quake was centred 130 kilometres to the east of the prefecture’s capital,
 A tsunami was sent crashing into the country’s north-eastern coast.
 It was originally reported at a magnitude of 7.9, but later was upgraded to
8.9 and then to a 9.0.
 It lasted 6 minutes.
 That makes it the fifth largest recorded worldwide since 1900, according to
the U.S. Geological Service, larger than the 7.9-magnitude Great Kanto
Earthquake that devastated Tokyo in 1923 or the 6.8 magnitude quake that
hit Kobe in 1995.
 It had 10,000 times more energy than the magnitude 6.3 earthquake in
Christchurch, New Zealand, which struck 17 days earlier
 This became known as the Tohoku earthquake or
The Great East Japan Earthquake due to the EARTHQUAKE
amount of damage it caused.
 This earthquake can be described as a mega quake
registering a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale.
 15,863 people died (The Japan Times, 2011) and it
is set to be one of the costliest disasters the world TSUNAMI
has ever experienced.
 This earthquake is the fifth strongest earthquake
in seismically recorded history i.e. since the start
of the 20th century
 This was a triple disaster; the original earthquake
created a tsunami which in turn damaged the
Fukushima nuclear power plant
 Japan is located on the east edge of the Eurasian
 The oceanic Pacific Plate subducts (sinks under) the
Eurasian Plate.
 This plate margain is “destructive” – it is not a
smooth process, friction is present and the plates
 When the plates stick, tension builds up.
 When this pressure builds up and is released, it
causes a rapid shift in the plates and a lot of energy
to be release, in this case about the same as the
annual energy output of the UK.
 Japan is located at the meeting point of 3 tectonic plates, The
Eurasian, Pacific and Philippines. The boundary is to the East .It is
a convergent DESTRUCTIVE boundary, with faults running off the
boundary. In effect, Japan owes its existence to this boundary and
the Islands are volcanic in origin. Japan gets 30% of the world’s
earthquakes every year, and there is 90mm of movement of the
Pacific Plate under the Eurasian.
 There was a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on the 9th of March, 2 days
before the 8.9-9.0 magnitude earthquake of the 11th.
 There were also huge numbers of large sized aftershocks, as big as
magnitude 6.
 This earthquake was caused by active plate tectonics.
 The Pacific Plate is being subducted beneath the
Euroasian plate, at a rate of between 8 centimetres and
8.5 centimetres per year
 Over time, stress and strain energy built up in the
system. This energy had been accumulating in the fault
since the last megathrust event along this fault which
occurred in 869AD.
 Eventually the system became overloaded and the stress
and strain had to be released, and so it “ruptured the
interplate boundary off-shore of east Japan, with fault
displacements of up to 40 m” The released energy not
only ruptured the crust but also heated the surrounding
rock, causing it to deform.
 The plate boundary consisted of three main breaks which occurred
within a couple minutes of each other. Each break moved at a different
speed but the third and last was the fastest at 2.5km/second. This was
the main rupture pushing southward and causing the most damage.
 Usually a seismic rupture would occur singularly and then produce one
 However on this occasion three breaks occurred, one after the other
resulting in a much longer and stronger earthquake.
 Each break released seismic body waves which moved through the crust.
First the P-waves moved out, these quickly reached Japan and set off
the Early Warning System there. These were followed by the slower but
more destructive S-waves. The earthquake went on for 2.5 minutes
which is longer than the average time for an earthquake <1minute



 Immediate responses  Long term responses
 Three minutes after the quake a  According to Japan's foreign ministry,
tsunami warning was issued.
116 countries and 28 international
 Meteorological Agency official organizations offered assistance.
appeared on TV urging those affected Japan specifically requested
by the quake not to return home
assistance from teams from
because of possible tsunamis.
Australia, New Zealand, South Korea,
 Fifty-nine search and rescue experts, and the United States.
four medics and two sniffer dogs flew
out on a private charter plane with 11
tonnes of equipment on board. Strong
police presence 91 countries have
offered aid, from blankets and food to
search dogs and military transport.
 The p-waves from the earthquake were
detected and a warning was sent to
televisions and mobile phones seconds
before the earthquake struck.
 This gave the Japanese time to execute
will practiced earthquake drills, such as
taking shelter under tables.
 A warning for the tsunami was given 3
minutes after the earthquake giving people
approximately 20 minutes the evacute.
 In Japan, residents are still recovering from the
disaster. As of February 2017, there were still
about 150,000 evacuees who lost their homes;
50,000 of them were still living in temporary
housing, Japan's Reconstruction Agency said.
 More than 120,000 buildings were destroyed,
278,000 were half-destroyed and 726,000 were
partially destroyed, the agency said. The direct
financial damage from the disaster is estimated
to be about $199 billion dollars (about 16.9
trillion yen), according to the Japanese
government. The total economic cost could
reach up to $235 billion, the World Bank
estimated, making it the costliest natural
disaster in world history
 The earthquake shifted Earth on its axis of rotation by redistributing mass, like putting a dent in a spinning top. The
temblor also shortened the length of a day by about a microsecond.
 More than 5,000 aftershocks hit Japan in the year after the earthquake, the largest a magnitude 7.9.
 About 250 miles (400 km) of Japan's northern Honshu coastline dropped by 2 feet (0.6 meters), according to the U.S.
Geological Survey.
 The jolt moved Japan's main island of Honshu eastward by 8 feet (2.4 meters).
 The Pacific Plate slid westward near the epicenter by 79 feet (24 m).
 In Antarctica, the seismic waves from the earthquake sped up the Whillans Ice Stream, jolting it by about 1.5 feet (0.5
 The tsunami broke icebergs off the Sulzberger Ice Shelf in Antarctica.
 As the tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean, a 5-foot high (1.5 m) high wave killed more than 110,000 nesting seabirds at the
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
 In Norway, water in fjords pointing toward Japan sloshed back and forth as seismic waves from the earthquake raced
 The earthquake produced a low-frequency rumble called infrasound, which traveled into space and was detected by the
Goce satellite.
 Buildings destroyed by the tsunami released thousands of tons of ozone-destroying chemicals and greenhouse gases into
the air.