Great quake rocks Japan, generating dangerous Pacific tsunami

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 13:56 (GMT)

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We live on a dangerous planet. Earth's second great earthquake in thirteen months rocked the coast of Japan at 5:46 GMT this morning, generating a dangerous tsunami that is racing across the Pacific Ocean. The mighty magnitude 8.9 earthquake is the 7th most powerful tremor in world history (Figure 1), and the planet's second top-ten earthquake in the past two years. The world's 8th largest earthquake, a magnitude 8.8 event, hit Chile on February 27, 2010. Never before have two top-ten earthquakes hit so close together in time. Today's quake was the strongest in Japanese history, and may end up being the most expensive natural disaster in world history, surpassing the $133+ billion dollar price tag from Hurricane Katrina.


Figure 1. Wikipedia's list of strongest earthquakes of all-time.

Media reports put the height of the tsunami near the Japanese coast as high as 23 feet. The initial tsunami wave has already hit Hawaii, and so far wave heights have been less than six feet, with 2.1 feet measured at Honolulu and 5.7 feet on Maui. Hilo on the Big Island has had a wave of 4.6 feet thus far. The city is not going to suffer the kind of devastation wrought by the tsunami from the 9.5 Magnitude 1960 earthquake in Chile, killed 61 people in Hilo.

MEASUREMENTS OR REPORTS OF TSUNAMI ACTIVITY

BOSO JAPAN 02.5FT/00.75M
NAHA JAPAN 01.6FT/00.49M
OFUNATO JAPAN 10.7FT/03.25M
OMAEZAKI JAPAN 04.6FT/01.39M
TOKAI JAPAN 00.8FT/00.23M
TOSASHIMIZU JAPAN 03.0FT/00.91M
KWAJALEIN MARSHALL ISL 01.0FT/00.30M
MIDWAY IS. USA 05.1FT/01.55M
WAKE IS. USA 01.7FT/00.52M
LEGASPI PHILIPPINES 01.1FT/00.32M
DUTCH HARBOR AK 01.6FT/00.48M
NIKOLSKI AK 01.4FT/00.41M
FRENCH FRIGATE SHOALS 01.8FT/00.56M
ST PAUL IS. AK 02.0FT/00.61M
SAND POINT AK 00.7FT/00.22M
MANUS PAPUA NEW GUINEA 01.2FT/00.36M
NAWILIWILI KAUAI HI 01.6FT/00.48M
BARBERS POINT HI 02.3FT/00.70M
HONOLULU OAHU HI 02.1FT/00.64M
KAHULUI MAUI HI 05.7FT/01.74M
HILO HI 04.6FT/01.41M
KING COVE AK 02.1FT/00.64M
LANGARA POINT BC 00.8FT/00.23M

In the San Francisco Bay area, tsunami waves of 1.6 - 5.3 feet are expected near 8am local time. The highest waves are expected near Rio del Mar, in Monterey Bay near Santa Cruz. Fortunately, the expected time of arrival is near the time of low tide, and tidal range along the central California coast is about 5 feet. This means that in most locations, the initial tsunami wave will not reach above the high tide mark. However, a tsunami is usually a series of waves that occur over a period of hours, and the highest tsunami waves along the North American coast are expected to arrive 2 - 3 hours after the initial wave hits, according to the NOAA/NWS/West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. These later waves could arrive as the tide is coming in, and cause flooding in low-lying areas. Northern California will see higher waves, with a tsunami of 7.9 feet expected at Crescent City. The waves will be hitting near the time of low tide at Crescent City, where tidal range is also about 5 feet between high and low tide.

Estimated time of arrival (PST) of possible tsunami at:
7:23 am for Crescent City
8:08 am for San Francisco
8:17 am for Santa Barbara

The latest forecast wave heights as of 5:20 am:
7.9 feet for Crescent City
6.5 feet for Port Orford
6.3 feet for Brookings
5.3 feet for Rio del Mar
4.5 feet for Reedsport
4.2 feet for Arena Cove
2.0 feet for Point Reyes
2.4 feet for Fort Point
2.8 feet for Pacifica
3.0 feet for Half Moon Bay
3.3 feet for Santa Cruz
2.9 feet for Point Sur


Figure 2. NOAA's preliminary forecast of tsunami wave energy for today's earthquake. Image credit: NOAA Tsunami Warning Center.

Portlight.org is mobilizing to provide financial assistance to people with disabilities affected by the disaster, and there will undoubtedly be a huge relief effort by numerous charities in the wake of the earthquake. Your financial contributions and prayers for those affected will be valuable.

Jeff Masters

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651. WatchingThisOne
12. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 00:41 (GMT)
Quoting DEKRE:


This is called "Natural Selection"


At least they all get a Darwin award. It's so tragic to see this needless loss of life in the face of a catastrophe that gave so many no choice.

WTO
Member Since: 15.07.2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1259
649. sunlinepr
12. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 00:29 (GMT)
Quoting Floodman:

Corroboration


Sorry, was out of the blog, but now that 8X radiation level is old news...

Actual news:

Japan quake causes emergencies at 5 nuke reactors


TOKYO -Japan declared states of emergency for five nuclear reactors at two power plants after the units lost cooling ability in the aftermath of Friday's powerful earthquake. Thousands of residents were evacuated as workers struggled to get the reactors under control to prevent meltdowns

Authorities said radiation levels had jumped 1,000 times normal inside Unit 1 and were measured at eight times normal outside the plant. They expanded an earlier evacuation zone more than threefold, from 3 to 10 kilometers (2 miles to 6.2 miles). Some 3,000 people had been urged to leave their homes in the first announcement.

Link
Member Since: 2.08.2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9652
647. Xyrus2000
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:23 (GMT)
Quoting Floodman:


Back that up a step or two, comanch...there's a serious difference between the risks of industrialization and having someone build a nuclear "pile" next door. Typically you can still grow things and breathe the air oin an industrial area...on the other hand, what's the half life of Cesium-137?

Don;t get me wrong, I'm with you on nuclear power, but shrugging off the risks isn't devil-may-care or brave; it's stupid...


Coal plants put out far more harmful materials, including radioactive materials, than a nuclear plant does. And unlike nuclear plants which contain nice solid packages of waste, coal plants pump it straight into the environment.

A recent report from Oak Ridge National Laboratory concludes that coal power actually results in more radioactivity being released into the environment than nuclear power operation, and that the population effective dose equivalent from radiation from coal plants is 100 times as much as from ideal operation of nuclear plants. Indeed, coal ash is much less radioactive than nuclear waste, but ash is released directly into the environment, whereas nuclear plants use shielding to protect the environment from the irradiated reactor vessel, fuel rods, and any radioactive waste on site.

Thorium based reactors would be 100% safe as they need a neutron source to initiate the reaction. No neutron source, no reaction. However, given the massive regulatory hurdles in place around anything with "nuclear", it has been difficult if not impossible for much R&D in this field. Uranium is still the "easiest and cheapest", so like oil, I doubt we will see thorium reactors until uranium becomes so expensive that alternatives are seriously looked at.

Also:
One mandated safety indicator is the calculated probable frequency of degraded core or core melt accidents. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) specifies that reactor designs must meet a 1 in 10,000 year core damage frequency, but modern designs exceed this. US utility requirements are 1 in 100,000 years, the best currently operating plants are about 1 in 1 million and those likely to be built in the next decade are almost 1 in 10 million.

I would much rather live next to a nuclear plant than a coal plant.



Member Since: 31.10.2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1225
646. EYEStoSEA
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:11 (GMT)
NEW BLOG
Member Since: 16.09.2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492
644. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:07 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:


In the long run no one was injured in the Three Mile Island "mess" as you put it. Only because of a ignorant media and ignorant politicians has that plant never been restarted.


There's still some real estate for sale there, you buying?
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
643. Floodman
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:06 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:


"God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other."


Life is about the decisions we make and how we deal with the result when those are good...or bad.

Again, I'm all for nuclear power: for the most part it's clean, it's safe and above all, we have fuel for a very long time...
Member Since: 2.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
641. HarryMc
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:06 (GMT)
Quoting klaatuborada:


Wow! Just the thought of all those disasters in one place is boggling my mind! I don't know which would be considered worse! The China Syndrome shrinks in comparison!


Exactly.
Member Since: 30.03.2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 337
640. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:04 (GMT)
Quoting HarryMc:


Can you imagine Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan starring in a remake of China Syndrome... maybe music theme by Lady GaGa??


Wow! Just the thought of all those disasters in one place is boggling my mind! I don't know which would be considered worse! The China Syndrome shrinks in comparison!
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
639. taistelutipu
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:04 (GMT)
Another link for those who can read German: The waves of the quake in Japan were measured in Karlsruhe, Germany and they lead to minor shifts in an ancient volcanic area in Germany, what is nowadays the valley of the river Rhine. The institute measured a shift of almost 1 cm, i.e. 0.4 inches.
Member Since: 20.08.2007 Posts: 12 Comments: 623
638. Floodman
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:03 (GMT)
Quoting Jedkins01:


Japan just suffered a horrible disaster, and you're talking about their government covering up scandal. Really?


Yes, really...the earthquake doesn't somehow make all that go away and if the government of Japan has covered things up in the past then there is an expectation that they might be less than honest in the wake of the earthquake.
Member Since: 2.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
636. PlazaRed
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:02 (GMT)
Quoting Ossqss:


Just popping in, I think we may find the position of the city to the wave may have attributed to the unusual movement and charactaristics of the waters impact the Doc referenced earlier. Several other areas which sustained damage had coastlines that were conducive in providing and environment for water convergence similar to that of which we have witnessed with respect to storm surge from hurricanes on varying coastline structure/water depth, etc.

Additionally, I just heard while driving an AP release that the radiation is now 1000 times normal around the reactor. I don't know if that has indeed been confirmed with authorities or not.

Prayers to all affected >>> out>>>


Just a point on the AP release as to if the radiation is a 1000 greater than normal? what is normal in this area and is a 1000 times greater than it dangerous?
IE. if one part /million is normal is 1000/million dangerous?
What would be considered a ''SAFE'' level to work in and if its unsafe why are they working in it!
This thing might turn into a mess like 3 mile island did.
With the chaos they must have there at the moment nothing is safe and nobody has had to defuse a nuclear reactor in a 9+ earthquake zone before with aftershocks.
Member Since: 21.01.2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1939
635. HarryMc
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:02 (GMT)
Quoting klaatuborada:


No, the worst case scenario for me would be watching Jane Fonda in this movie...


Can you imagine Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan starring in a remake of China Syndrome... maybe music theme by Lady GaGa??
Member Since: 30.03.2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 337
634. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 23:01 (GMT)
#
2252: The Tokyo Electric Power Company has said the cooling systems of three reactors at second nuclear power plant, Fukushima-Daini, are malfunctioning, according to the Kyodo news agency. The plant is 11km (7 miles) to the south of Fukushima-Daiichi, where the cooling system one of its reactors is not working and pressure is rising.

BBC
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
632. Floodman
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:59 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:


What happened in China Syndrome is junk science. This could not happen.


Exactly...just like the idiots that were screaming about the explosive danger of the plant they built in central Missouri 30 years ago...they don't blow up, and in the west, at least, they're built for safety.

The nuclear industry has come a long way since Fermi built his reactor under the bleachers at U of C.

The only issue is the lethality in the event that something DID happen...
Member Since: 2.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
631. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:58 (GMT)
Quoting taistelutipu:


Thanks for sharing. Could that phenomenon be linked to the inredibly cold winter here in the UK? And is it likely to persist? In any case, I better remember to put my sun screen on and stay out of the sun around mid-day, if the ozone level is so low. I hope we won't get to Australian levels in terms of UV exposure.


Lucky you, you get to go out into the sun. I am allergic to the sun. "Run away, run away...!"
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
630. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:57 (GMT)
Quoting islander101010:
worst case scenario? what could happen? jane fonda was great in this movie.


No, the worst case scenario for me would be watching Jane Fonda in this movie...
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
629. taistelutipu
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:56 (GMT)
Quoting DEKRE:
Grothar (repeat)

Something for you (and other people who read german)

Link


Thanks for sharing. Could that phenomenon be linked to the inredibly cold winter here in the UK? And is it likely to persist? In any case, I better remember to put my sun screen on and stay out of the sun around mid-day, if the ozone level is so low. I hope we won't get to Australian levels in terms of UV exposure.
Member Since: 20.08.2007 Posts: 12 Comments: 623
625. Floodman
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:52 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:


I live 30 miles downwind in the prevailing wind from a Nuke plant and I sleep very well at night. When I can't sleep it's not worrying about that.


Good for you...if anything does happen at the plant you will have been lethally dosed before anyone can warn you anyway, right?

Kind of like how I deal with flying: if something did happen there wouldn't be much I could do, and in most scenarios I wouldn't even have time to think "What was that?"
Member Since: 2.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
624. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:52 (GMT)
Quoting Jedkins01:


Japan just suffered a horrible disaster, and you're talking about their government covering up scandal. Really?


Did you read what I was responding to? Really? The entire thread? Did you?
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
623. HarryMc
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:51 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:


I live 30 miles downwind in the prevailing wind from a Nuke plant and I sleep very well at night. When I can't sleep it's not worrying about that.


I know what you mean. I live between a superfund site and a lumpa-big nuke. Between those, our water and air are analyzed more than anywhere else I know of. Both are always wicked clean and we get the independent analyses to prove it.

Worked making reactor cores in my early career days and not worried about nuke safety measures at all. Even 1000 times "normal" like those reports say still "ain't much to talk about" as they say.
Member Since: 30.03.2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 337
622. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:50 (GMT)
#
2239: Japanese nuclear safety officials have said the problems at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant represent "no immediate health hazard" to people living nearby. Some 45,000 people living within a 10km (6-mile) radius of the plant were told to evacuate as radiation levels rose to 1,000 times above normal in one reactor.

BBC
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
621. Jedkins01
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:50 (GMT)
Quoting klaatuborada:


But if history has taught us anything it is that we are not infallible. Let us hope that the tradition of saving face and Japan's bureaucratic mastery of covering up to avoid scandal does not rear it's ugly head here.


Japan just suffered a horrible disaster, and you're talking about their government covering up scandal. Really?
Member Since: 21.08.2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6867
620. ycd0108
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:50 (GMT)
Thanks Klaatuborada
Works for me (your link, that is)
Member Since: 1.01.2008 Posts: 170 Comments: 4401
619. Chicklit
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:49 (GMT)
Quoting srada:
CNN showing the bullet train..stranded on the tracks


do not see that this is the one reported missing.
Member Since: 11.07.2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11047
617. srada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:48 (GMT)
CNN showing the bullet train..stranded on the tracks
Member Since: 17.08.2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 772
616. islander101010
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:48 (GMT)
worst case scenario? what could happen? jane fonda was great in this movie.
Member Since: 11.09.2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4018
615. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:46 (GMT)
Quoting Floodman:


Ahhh, but he's an honorable (to a point) lecherous old coot...wait, are we talking about Laz or Grothar here?


Perhaps both?
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
614. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:45 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:

Trying to cover things up is not limited to the government of Japan. LOL.


Did not mean to infer that only Japan did this. It is a general fault of mankind I believe. Just look at the child who tries to hide whatever has broken. It is inherent in us all. There is a history of this in Japan that gives me pause.
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
613. Ossqss
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:44 (GMT)


Just popping in, I think we may find the position of the city to the wave may have attributed to the unusual movement and charactaristics of the waters impact the Doc referenced earlier. Several other areas which sustained damage had coastlines that were conducive in providing and environment for water convergence similar to that of which we have witnessed with respect to storm surge from hurricanes on varying coastline structure/water depth, etc.

Additionally, I just heard while driving an AP release that the radiation is now 1000 times normal around the reactor. I don't know if that has indeed been confirmed with authorities or not.

Prayers to all affected >>> out>>>
Member Since: 12.06.2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8183
611. Floodman
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:42 (GMT)
Quoting klaatuborada:


Don't let him fool ya, he's not young, and watch out for any women you care for, cause he's a leacherous old coot!


Ahhh, but he's an honorable (to a point) lecherous old coot...wait, are we talking about Laz or Grothar here?
Member Since: 2.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
609. Jedkins01
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:41 (GMT)
Devastation...
Member Since: 21.08.2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6867
608. Floodman
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:40 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:


There is zero similarity between a modern nuclear plant here or in Japan and Chernobyl. The Soviets built that plant with no containment vessel so when there was a problem there was nothing to stop the radiation.

We can either have a nation and a world in the image of the unibomber or accept that there are certain risks in anything we do in modern society.


Back that up a step or two, comanch...there's a serious difference between the risks of industrialization and having someone build a nuclear "pile" next door. Typically you can still grow things and breathe the air oin an industrial area...on the other hand, what's the half life of Cesium-137?

Don;t get me wrong, I'm with you on nuclear power, but shrugging off the risks isn't devil-may-care or brave; it's stupid...
Member Since: 2.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
607. Grothar
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:40 (GMT)
Quoting klaatuborada:


Don't let him fool ya, he's not young, and watch out for any women you care for, cause he's a leacherous old coot!


Hey, Mrs. Grothar reads this blog sometimes. She already doesn't believe I have that much interest in weather!
Member Since: 17.07.2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23727
605. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:39 (GMT)
Quoting twincomanche:


There is zero similarity between a modern nuclear plant here or in Japan and Chernobyl. The Soviets built that plant with no containment vessel so when there was a problem there was nothing to stop the radiation.

We can either have a nation and a world in the image of the unibomber or accept that there are certain risks in anything we do in modern society.


But if history has taught us anything it is that we are not infallible. Let us hope that the tradition of saving face and Japan's bureaucratic mastery of covering up to avoid scandal does not rear it's ugly head here.
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
604. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:35 (GMT)
Quoting Floodman:


You bet he does! I know him (actually, Gro and I both do)...nice enough young fella!


Don't let him fool ya, he's not young, and watch out for any women you care for, cause he's a leacherous old coot!
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
603. klaatuborada
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:34 (GMT)
Quoting ycd0108:
Another take on the reactor situation:
http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Environment/2011/ 03/11/Japan-quake-exposes-risky-nuclear-decisions/


Your link is broken, let's try this:

Here
Member Since: 15.08.2004 Posts: 23 Comments: 380
602. Floodman
11. maaliskuuta 2011 klo 22:32 (GMT)
Quoting klaatuborada:



Grok back at 'cha! Lazarus Long lives!


You bet he does! I know him (actually, Gro and I both do)...nice enough young fella!
Member Since: 2.08.2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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