12 March 2011

The morning after

Posted by Callan Bentley

A new resource for the Japanese earthquake is online this morning, a “supersite” similar to the ones that exist for other huge events. Checking it out this morning, I found some interesting stuff. Over night, there have been more aftershocks, and here’s the most recent 600 or so events in the area, taken from IRIS’s interactive map. You can see the big circle that represents yesterday’s main shock:

Explore the IRIS Earthquake Browser yourself by clicking here.

Also of note is this GPS vector map — this shows with arrows of different sizes and orientations the motion vectors of different spots on Honshu as a result of the event, its foreshocks, and its aftershocks:

Basically, this is a comparison (as the upper left indicates) between March 8 at 9pm and March 11 at 4:30pm of the positions of a bunch of GPS receivers. They’ve moved, some more than others. It’s from information like this that we hear news reports about how the “coast of Japan has moved 8 feet to the east.” Note the scale bar in the lower right is 50 cm. Though there is some overlap that makes the arrows appear to designate greater magnitudes than they really do (poor information design, I’m afraid), some of the lone, clear arrows clearly indicate displacements of more than 2 meters (4 x 50 cm).

A few other links that may be of interest:

Chris Rowan of Highly Allochthonous discusses the tectonics in a much-anticipated post here.

Jorge of Structural Geology.org discusses the inevitable questions about the end of the world, given the temporal proximity of two big, destructive, photFukushimaogenic earthquakes.

Steve Schimmrich of Hudson Valley Geologist examines the idea of next week’s “SuperMoon” perigee-syzygy, and dismisses it as having anything to do with the quake. (Neil DeGrasse Tyson made the same point yesterday, but Steve goes into a revealing level of detail. Check it out.)

Meanwhile, in Japan’s city of Fukushima, a nuclear power plant is exhibiting some scary symptoms of melting down, including release of cesium and iodine, and exploding. As Evelyn of Georneys said on Facebook last night, paraphrasing my “flaming tsunami” remarks from yesterday, “The only thing worse than a tsunami on fire is a nuclear power plant + a tsunami on fire.” We all wait to see what will come of this horrific example of a bad situation –really, really bad– going to much, much worse. I’m comforted by reports at posting time that the reactor itself wasn’t harmed in the explosion, though that strains credulity. Hoping for the best there. Stay tuned.