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Lacey Hall Geography 1700

Term Paper on The Earthquake Near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan

For my Term Paper I will be discussing the Honshu, Japan earthquake. I will go over the following: why this incident occurred, what happened, where it was located, who was affected, what natural processes occurred in relation to the quake, my analysis of the situation, and my reflection on this catastrophe as well as this course.

Report: On March 11, 2011 an earthquake of substantial power occurred in Japan. This earthquake is known under many names, the most known being The Great Sandai Earthquake and The Great Tohoku Earthquake. The magnitude originally announced as 8.9, was actually determined to be a 9.0 magnitude earthquake after further evaluation. The quake was so large that people in Russia, Taiwan, and China felt the earth move. The earthquake occurred at 2:46 p.m. near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. The epicenter was estimated to be at 24.4 kilometers in depth. The quakes began on March 9th in The Japan Trench, which is a known subduction zone, with a magnitude 7.2 earthquake approximately 40 kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake that occurred just two days later. This earthquake occurred about 130 kilometers east of Sendai. This specific subduction zone has been known for nine earthquakes magnitude 7.0 or higher in the last 40 years. The earthquake that occurred on March 11th caused an equally destructive Tsunami hitting Japan about an hour after the quake with waves up to

33 feet tall and traveling up to 6 miles inland that did severe damage to nuclear reactors and power plants within the area. Forcing the government to declare a state of Nuclear Emergency. The tsunami not only affected Japan coasts. It was so great that a warning was issued to the whole Pacific Basin. The tsunami was estimated to be traveling at 500 miles per hour through the Pacific Ocean and as the hours after the quake passed one by one the Hawaiian Islands, the Aleutian Islands, California, Oregon, and Antarctica were all hit by smaller tsunamis.

Many foreshocks were indicated some small and some large. According to the USGS earthquake map, there were 56 earthquakes that took place around Japan that were magnitude 6.0 or higher between March 7th and March 15th. In addition there was a large tsunami in which occurred shortly after the large quake. Some also believe that this earthquake caused the volcanic eruption of Mount Fuji only 49 days later.

The natural processes in which caused this event are primarily due to the Pacific plate, which is an oceanic tectonic plate that subducts below Japan. Due to build up of pressure and energy the plate moved thus causing earthquakes and tremors. Initially there were smaller earthquakes known as foreshocks, which led the main earthquake, where several after shocks occurred. However in reaction to the main quake, a tsunami occurred spreading destruction throughout the Pacific. In reaction to the tsunami and the quakes were fires, explosions, deaths, disease, injuries, extreme financial losses, extreme structure losses, bursting damns, stagnant water, power outages, nuclear reactions at

testing facilities, radiation, water and sewage systems out of order, and more. This was such a substantial destructive chain reaction that many people lost everything.

The combination of the earthquakes and the tsunami created mass destruction. Tearing through boats, homes, cars, buildings, and people. Essentially destroying everything in the vicinity. The people of Japan were affected so greatly by this, that even today many individuals are still morning the losses experienced and having financial difficulties due to both the quake and processes that occurred in relation to the quake. Between the two the confirmed number dead in Japan equals 15,883 people. This number is including those who died from disease, in addition to those deceased from the aftermath created by the Earthquakes and Tsunami. Cost of recover is upwards of $615 billion. All in all making this not a disaster but a catastrophe.

Analysis: In regards to forecasting or predicting this event, there was no way to accurately predict the exact time, date, and magnitude of such an event occurring. However it was possible to forecast a larger earthquake occurring. Due to the overwhelming amount of foreshocks and The Japan Trench being known for its powerful and rather frequent movements, it was known that the possibility of a larger and more devastating quake was on its way. The people were informed as much and living in that area should have been already informed of just how active the area is for movement of the tectonic plates. Warning systems were used to announce the foreshocks and the possibility of more to come. However they were more so issued and effective after the main quake hit and the warnings were issued for the tsunami. Thousands were evacuated

and even though most of their properties were damaged beyond the point of repair, many still had their lives thanks to these warning systems.

In regards to the risk associated with this area, The Japan Trench is one of the most active tectonic plates in the world. Not only is it active but often very powerful. Having some of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded occur there. The probability of another severe quake occurring on The Japan Trench is almost guaranteed. We can look throughout history to see the patterns of the tectonic plates. The history of The Japan Trench concludes that earthquakes of the extreme variety are produced more than anywhere else in the world. When they do occur thousands are left dead and billions of dollars are spent to rebuild and create a once again a stable living environment.

This earthquake was the result of energy buildup within the earths crust. However this one event is linked to so many other natural hazards. In this particular situation it caused a tsunami and is said to have initiated some volcanic eruptions. Also fires, disease, landslides, pollution, and more can all be directly related to the Great Sandai earthquake.

This catastrophe could have been less destructive if so many people didnt populate Japan. The more time goes one, the more humans populate and create structures in known hazardous areas. This is certainly the case for Japan. Granted Japan has been fairly populated for hundreds of years, however the increase in people and technology has only created more structures and more capability of a natural process turning into natural

catastrophes. In my personal and somewhat unrealistic opinion people need to quit populating areas known for mass destruction by natural processes outside of our control.

Japans Mitigation plan for the effected area had already had several sound structure requirements in affect upon the earthquakes arrival due to their location, however many more structure requirements have been put into place since to make buildings less likely to crumble and more likely to sway with the movement of the earth. In addition they had a great response team in place for immediate search and rescue. Thanks to this many lives were saved. Because they did have some building structure requirements, many of the areas hit had much less damage from the quake itself than it could have. In preparation for an area so prone to natural disasters I believe all buildings and structures need to have some sort of implement to them to create a lesser amount of damage in the event of one, if this were already in strict effect at the time of the March 11th quake the damages could have been significantly less than what they were. Also for each household in the area they should have all large objects in some way secured and food supplys saved to last them up to a week without electricity. If each citizen had done this the potential loss of life and injuries caused could have been less. In conclusion for areas on active fault lines it is smart to have a strict building code, a warning system in place, a well educated population, and a quick response team to help with the efforts in the event of such a situation occurring.

In regards to natural service functions spawning from this catastrophe, I was unable to find any listed in my research. With earthquakes the possible natural service

functions are the following: Groundwater exposed, energy and mineral resources, land development, and the potential of reducing magnitude of future earthquakes. Although these are all benefits from earthquakes and all possible with this one, I was unable to locate any recorded evidence of such.

Reflective Writing: In response to writing this paper and taking Geography 1700, I feel as though I have become much more educated on important and unavoidable natural processes. I now know when I decide to buy a home to perform a radon test, have the soil tested to avoid landslides, evaluate risk and probability for natural disasters occurring in the area, this way I will make the safest choice for both myself and my family. My life is forever changed with this information. I will always be conscious of my surroundings and be able to recognize the signs of a potential natural process about to occur. Which will assist me in my long term life choices from things as small as where should we go on vacation? to where should we buy a house? I have thoroughly enjoyed this class and will be passing on the valuable information I have gained to my loved ones.

Below is my cited material in which assisted me in writing this paper.