Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

March 14th, 2011

By Tom Carter

The earthquakes and tsunami that hit Japan in the last few days are a sobering reminder of the fragility of life on Planet Earth.  The main earthquake has been estimated as having a magnitude of 8.9, 9.0, or 9.1 on the Richter scale.  Nothing unusual about the variation; it sometimes takes a while for seismologists to arrive at an agreed magnitude.  Regardless of which estimate is used, it was the strongest earthquake in Japanese history and one of the strongest ever recorded.  There were also many foreshocks, and there have been many aftershocks so far.  Some of these exceeded magnitude 7, strong earthquakes by any reckoning.

The tsunami that hit northeastern Honshu Island, the main Japanese island, was devastating.  The raging water destroyed entire towns and infrastructure of all kinds and killed many people.  The videos of the tsunami are bad enough, but it’s hard to imagine what the horror must have been like for the victims.

The death toll will likely be in the tens of thousands, once bodies have been found and the list of missing has been reconciled with the number known to be dead.

On top of everything else, at least two nuclear power plants were heavily damaged, two reactors may suffer a meltdown, and radioactive contamination has been released into the air.  There’s no way to know how bad it will get or how far the winds will carry the radiation.  It’s not impossible that this could exceed the severity of the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history.

There’s an excellent summary report on the tragedy here, with many heartbreaking photographs.

Reading reports and looking at videos and photos inevitably lead to thoughts of other natural disasters, past and future:

  • It matters who the people are, in terms of national character, intelligence, organizational skills, and prior preparation.  In Japan, as bad as this tragedy is, fewer people died and the recovery will be much faster and more efficiently executed than in other places.
  • We run around in circles debating questionable propositions like global warming, while the reality is that the Earth pretty much takes care of itself — and when so inclined, smacks us down with a real demonstration of what it can do.
  • There are more earthquakes, big ones, coming.  The one that just hit Japan was long predicted, just as we know full well that parts of California will be devastated some day.  Some may also be accompanied by large tsunamis.
  • Huge volcanic eruptions are coming, too.  Among them, Mount Fuji, very close to Tokyo, is likely; another is possible — the Yellowstone caldera in Wyoming, a supervolcano that could throw enough smoke and debris into the atmosphere to threaten life on Earth.
  • It’s said that this latest earthquake shifted the Earth on its axis, varied the Earth’s rotation enough to slightly shorten the length of days, and moved Honshu Island a distance of about eight feet.  Consider what could happen if Mother Nature really takes a mind to teach us a lesson.
  • If all that isn’t bad enough to make you “be afraid, be very afraid,” consider that the Earth may again be impacted by a celestial body big enough to create widespread damage or even another mass extinction event.  In fact, this most likely will happen; it’s just a question of when.

America is providing help to the Japanese people.  A number of U.S. Navy ships are in or nearing Japanese waters, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and a large amphibious assault ship, the USS Essex.  The Reagan has already sailed through a radioactive cloud from the damaged Japanese nuclear power plants.  Many other forms of aid will be provided from the U.S.

Media coverage of events in Japan has been very good, partly because the highly technical Japanese all seem to have video cameras, and there’s no lack of coverage of the earthquake and tsunami as they occurred.  Also, as far as I’ve seen CNN hasn’t sent Anderson Cooper over there to sob on camera, like he did following Hurricane Katrina.

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2 Responses to “Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan”

  1. mayleen seiola |

    after i read the news i hurried to the library and search for all the images of that earthquake. tears fell from my eyes because of the photographs. i wonder if i am one of those people who are running from the waves but don’t know where to hide.i cried. it was so sad.but i want to tell all the people of japan that i will pray for them.all day and all night.

  2. CathyJ | was really unimaginable disaster! And at that time I was praying for this people.(japanese)The best we can do for them is to pray to God that they will recover soon..

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