The fifth largest earthquake ever recorded launches Pacific tsunami

The fifth largest earthquake ever recorded hit the island nation of Japan today, causing massive destruction and putting the whole Pacific Rim on a tsunami alert. Immediately warnings went out across the Pacific and local authorities alerted residents all around the region, including Hawaii and the entire west coast of the United States. A tsunami measuring over 10 meters was reported to have hit Sendai and waves topping 1 meter were expected in North America.

As of this writing, there have been 122 earthquakes measuring 5.0 or more in the past two and a half days in the Honshu coast region (and a total of 171 worldwide), including 4 over 6.0 off the coast of Japan preceding the 8.9 quake and another 16 aftershocks measuring 6.0 or larger. With an earthquake this large, smaller earthquakes in other regions are expected as the stresses in the Earth’s crust are redistributed.

Map graphics are an integral part of the tsunami warning system, including some very interesting depictions of the travel time of the tsunami and the relative strength as it passes across the ocean:

Sift-Predicted Tsunami Wave Amplitude

(credit: NOAA)

(credit: NOAA)

Lost in the coverage of the Honshu earthquake was the news that there was another smaller, but also destructive quake in southwest China that prompted the Obama administration to send official condolences for those affected by their disaster.

Sources: USGS, NOAA

Learn more about earthquakes and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center at these links:

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

USGS Earthquakes hazard Program

and see photos of the disaster from the Globe and Mail.


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