10 years ago a M9 rocked Japan. At that point I felt like the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami was going to my “big one”. I remember going to a meeting at school where everyone brought all the data they had run. I remember being in awe of how many buildings were able to stand up to the shaking of the earthquake. I remember my Mom calling to tell me to not be excited.
But also I remember talking about it on episode 11. I find it hard to listen to myself from that long ago so instead I wanted to tell you what I have learned in the 10 years since this event. (My archive can be found here)
We CAN build for large earthquakes. This was my biggest lesson. After Haiti in 2010 which was a M7 it was a big lesson for me. The different between a M7 and M9 is 100 times larger and 1000 times stronger. After Tohoku my advisor said something that stuck with me “earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings kill people” and we saw this play out again in L’Aquila.
Early Warning systems and community education is important. Japan has invested in its early warning system. It has phone alerts, sirens and the most amazing geophysical network of sensors. That combined with the education of the population lead to video after video of people safely evacuating by going up in buildings or on hills. The US STILL doesn’t have even close to what Japan has.
Some misinformation just sticks around. This fucking map is the god damn tsunami model and not a fucking “radiation from Fukushima” map. I will slap you if you. Period. Your seafood in the eastern Pacific is FINE.
The videos continue to fascinate me. Last year my husband and I discovered a trove of videos of the tsunami and couldn’t stop watching them. We “know” what tsunami waves look like and how they work but watching them in action was something else entirely.
Information travels faster than waves of any kind. The information wave about the earthquake and tsunami traveled faster than any of the physical waves. Enough so that several colleagues were able to set up extra sensors in order to capture it around the globe.
Know your hazards! If you live on the coast and you feel strong shaking that lasts for more than a few seconds evacuate up hill. Be safe.
Here are some of the videos (to the best of my memory these don’t contain the images of any victims however they may be upsetting to watch):