Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunamis in Japan

The Big Picture, #6
The Big Picture, #7

Above, two stunning photos from The Big Picture show a Tsunami sweeping into Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. This set of (currently) 43 pictures is mind boggling.

I caught word of this just before I went to bed last night. I'm really just getting started today, but I've already received a couple of e-mail requests from readers and relatives to chime in. Looking at the enormous amount of stuff that's rolling in today, I think the way I'll approach it is simply to link and comment briefly on items that strike me as particularly worthwhile. Various news agencies are going to have better resources for reporting, and other geobloggers are going to offer better interpretations. I think I can best serve by picking out what I think is most informative. I'm just going to post updates as I find useful links, rather than try to get all the cats in a row before posting. I think it may be months before this gets straightened out.

(All times PST, UTC minus 8 hours) 11:41- Dave Bressan at History of Geology provides some historical background on earthquakes in Japan.

11:46- Via NYT's Dot Earth blog and @callanbently, the first video I've seen so far, and some commentary on the risk to Oregon's schools. To be clear, Oregon is moving to retrofit or replace schools with high seismic risk- two have been closed and replaced in Corvallis alone over the last 20 years. This issues are that it isn't happening quickly enough, and anti-government, anti-tax interests make funding very difficult for these expensive undertakings. Furthermore, the risk awareness in the general population is low. Many of us fear that what it's going to take is an enormous disaster, with thousands or tens of thousands of casualties, before voters take it seriously. And then, of course, it's too late.
11:55- Awesome RT @: Tsunami surge arriving in San Francisco Bay /via @. Awesome photo at the "http" link. Also, News10 - California KDRV, ABC Oregon affiliate, has confirmed that 4 people in Crescent City have been swept out to sea. One of the victims is a fatality. RT by GeoSocietyOR. OregonLive reports on the Tsunami reaching SW Oregon; it hit at low tide, and troopers had been out since the wee hours evacuating low-lying areas, so it wouldn't be a problem if not for people who can't read or follow instructions. Hint: If there are tsunami warnings, stay the hell off the beach. Natural selection doesn't care about your excuses... or your literacy.

12:06 PM- A report on the damage in N. California.

12:14- From Wil Wheaton's Tumblr, skyscrapers in Shinjuku. Yay! Science, technology and engineering work! Or maybe everyone was just praying really hard.

12:21- Oregon Expat:
In the seven years I’ve been subscribing to the U.S. Geological Survey’s email alert system, I have never seen anything like what happened today. Between 5:46 GMT and the moment I’m writing this (twelve hours later), there have been 86 earthquakes stronger than M 5.0 off the northeast coast of Japan.
Holy moley!

12:23- OregonLive reports tsunami tsiren tsounds again in Curry County at 11:15. Four people rescued south of Gold Beach, one nearly drowns. Fer chrissakes, stay the hell away from the water until an official all-clear is given. It's not just your life at risk.

1:09- NYT on how Japan's shaky history has created a culture of seismic awareness and preparedness.

1:13- KATU: "PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Gov. John Kitzhaber said Oregon coast residents should be able to return to their homes by noon Friday after an evacuation prompted by a tsunami warning that resulted from an 8.9 magnitude earthquake just off the coast of Japan." But stay off the beach, dammit. 1:28- Also, OregonLive is reporting much the same, with some more detail. Lucky it was low tide

1:20- Via Pharyngula, a video clip from The Guardian. I'm overwhelmed.

1:40- OregonLive is reporting major damage in Brookings, the southernmost town on the OR coast. Brookings is where I taught, and the house I lived in looked directly across the Chetco River at the port. Most of the fleet moved out to sea to avoid damage, but many in port have been damaged or destroyed. One body found, but not clear the victim died during the tsunami. More on damage to US west coast and Hawaii from OregonLive here. 1:59- Aerial photo of Port of Brookings.

1:48- NYT: Cooling crisis at Japanese nuclear power plant, nearby residents evacuated. Plant engineers "planning to release slightly radioactive vapor to reduce pressure inside a reactor." Define "slightly," please.

1:55- Silver Fox has posted an exhaustive list of other geobloggers' posts on the events. I haven't worked back to most of them in my RSS feed yet, and I may very well link some of those posts later. But in the meantime, If you want geologists' perspectives, this is the go-to post.

2:05- I always feel a little futile and repetitive when I start banging this drum yet again, but perhaps in the aftermath of such a disaster, people may be more receptive to the message. Or not. I don't know. The PNW and Oregon in particular are not ready for an event like this, and we will have one at some time in the future. Preparing is cheaper, in terms of money, pain, and lives, than repairing.

2:15- Der Spiegel has a gallery of photos as well. They look to be largely screen captures from Japanese television, so they're not as high resolution as the leading set from the big picture. Still, jaw dropping.

2:21- In the "not-all-press-releases-are-awful" department, OSU has a couple of quick responses: West Coast tsunami warnings shouldn’t lull Oregonians to sleep. Money quote:
Robert Yeats, a professor emeritus of geology at OSU, agrees that Oregon is in better shape now than in 2005, when one of the last major tsunami warnings took place. “Then you had a bunch of people running down to the beach to take pictures, acting like idiots,” Yeats said. “It was sort of a fiasco. Oregon coastal communities seem to be better prepared now, even though there’s still work to do. Our building codes for new structures are much better than they used to be.
I had Yeats for a number of classes... good guy. Speaking of which, he also leads the second piece, Pacific Northwest faces nearly identical risks to Japanese quake:
Yeats, a professor emeritus of geology at Oregon State University, said that if people didn’t already get the message from recent disasters in Sumatra and Chile, they should pay attention now. “This is an earthquake of the same type, with about the same magnitude and proximity that we face here in the Pacific Northwest from the Cascadia Subduction Zone,” Yeats said. “What you are seeing in Japan today is what you will also see in our future. Except they are better prepared than we are.”
3:22- A gallery of coastal damage in southern Oregon and northern California at OregonLive.

3:49- Breaking news! The moon caused the earthquake! Umm... no, it didn't. (Erik Klemetti, Eruptions)

3:53- OregonLive. Hmm... I'm not sure I like the way this is being reported: geophysicist Robert Gellar says "I don't think those hazard assessments are meaningful" with respect to predicted 7.5 EQ, which turned out to be a (now revised) 9-9.1. I guess my thinking is "this is the minimum we need to be prepared for" should not necessarily be taken to mean "this is the maximum we can expect."

4:06- In yet more "News for Nitwits," in addition to beachcombing, surfing is another activity best avoided during tsunami warnings.

4:10- Wasting gazillions on something called tsunami monitoring. You just know the Republicans aren't going to tolerate that kind of waste.

4:17- Callan at Mountain Beltway has a post that offers not only a good summary (and lots of links), but illustrates one of the real strengths of blogging. After making a major error, and getting a correction in the comments, he strikes out the erroneous material and writes a corrected version. The error (and correction) are thus highlighted, not printed on different days, on page 1 one day and and page 37 two days later. The ability of bloggers to do this increases my trust in their good faith, due diligence, and credibility. It's a technique I've used from time to time, and I really appreciate it. Also, check out his Art Imitates Art post- if this isn't purposeful, it's almost certainly a subconcious imitation.

4:28- Clouds and Tsunamis: what do they have in common? Von Karmen vortices! (Steve Gough, Riparian Rap)

4:37- Evelyn at Georneys posts some more mind boggling footage of the disaster, and links to organizations that will channel donations to aid the victims.

4:53- From GeoCosas (Spanish), an animation I saw earlier as a QuickTime clip. This computer and QT don' t play well together, so I'm pleased to see a YouTube version.

5:13- OregonLive: Oregon Coast tsunami: Warning downgraded to tsunami advisory; state parks reopen.
"Basically, (the downgrade) means that we're still seeing wave energy from the tsunami, it's still affecting our coast, but it has less impact from before and there is not considered to be a major threat of damage," said Meteorologist Jeremiah Pyle.
5:16- I'm getting mixed messages from this report on the ongoing emergency at the endangered nuclear reactor five (!) nuclear reactors.

5:41- OregonLive has more coverage on damage to Oregon ports, and this video clip from Brookings. I've been out on that jetty a number of times- my house was about a block from there. The people who filmed this were very lucky nothing bigger hit. One of the things I've internalized about the coast is that you always need to be aware of your path for retreat in an uphill direction. I can't tell how far out on the jetty they were, but it's very rough and bouldery- you can't exactly run on it.

5:58- Despite some problems in some areas, OR coastal residents seem to feel the tsunami alert system worked pretty well. However, as Yeats pointed out in one of the OSU press releases, when our megathrust quake hits, warning windows are going to be on the order of minutes, not ten hours. On the other hand, a distant quake like this provides an opportunity to shake bugs out of the system.

6:02- My brain is full. Headin' home. Later all.

(Part II is here)

1 comment:

Steve Gough said...

Awesome roundup, thanks.