Special report: Part of Japan moved 4 meters due to the Mw9.0 earthquake

According to BBC News it seems that that part of Japan moved up to 4 meters in the Mw9.0 earthquake. Closest to the epicentre of the earthquake the movement is possibly up to 20 meters, but the movement might have not been all the same within the fault line (100 wide and 500 km long). This earthquake might also have shifted the Earth axis about 16.5 cm. But this earthquake has also changed the sea bead in such way that it needs to be remapped for ships.

Two videos of the earthquake.

BBC News on this.

How the quake has moved Japan (BBC News)
Pictures of the damage from the earthquake (BBC News)

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2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami
(Google Information web page)

35 Replies to “Special report: Part of Japan moved 4 meters due to the Mw9.0 earthquake”

  1. If an earthquake like this (moving 4 meters the whole Japan) happens every 50 years, it will account, after millions of years (let’s say 100) of the distance between North America and Asia, so this fits into the average expected continental drift!
    (But of course, the Pacific is shrinking)

    4 meter displacement of the whole Japan, is obviously a lot of water displaced!

      1. Jon,

        Hey! 😉 I just registered and will check in with you from time to time. I love this site!!!
        After watching what happened to Japan and watching the Earthquake swarms for months now in Arkansas, what is your take on all the activity? Im not really worried about what may happen as I know living in Tennessee there is a risk not only for tornado’s but a major Earthquake as well. It has me on the edge of my seat though wondering if all the activity in Arkansas is indeed fore-shocks. Let me know your thoughts…. Thanks!

      2. Personally, I don’t think so. At least not in the Guy AR area. Despite the ruling of the AOGC on the Clarita and Chesapeake disposal wells, I stil think its horst/graben activity on a border fault of the NMZ. Essentially southern manifestation of the forces that made the commerce fault. Clarita and Chesapeake just happened to have been in the wrong place and got the blame.

  2. I think the actual report said the area nearest the coast moved that far, but the ground buckled so further away from the faukt it moved a lot less.

  3. Since no-one else has said it; I will: Iceland has been free of the slightest trace of a quake for near 24 hours now. This is pretty uncommon, right? System broken?

    1. I was asking myself the same question concerning the lack of any quake in Iceland for the least 24 hours.
      Silence for the storm….?

      Henk Weijerstrass

  4. Could the 9.0 Quake have some effect on reducing quakes in other areas of the world? Because, besides Iceland’s low quake activity, Yellowstone (including surrounding areas) has also gone into a quiet mode for days now since the 9.0 Japanese quake. A very unusual NO quakes recorded at Yellowstone for 4 days: http://is.gd/FzJfcK

    Compared to 20 quakes during the same 4 days last year.

    And compared to 27o quakes over the prior 71 days of this year. http://is.gd/UB1ZYV

    1. I don’t think there are no quakes in Iceland – merely none being recorded due to the weather conditions drowning out the ability to measure them.

      1. I don’t think weather has been bad enough over the whole country to not record any quakes, though.

      2. Believe or not, but the actual weather here in Iceland *is* really bad. They have closed mountain passes due to the storm, after cars get blown off the street.

  5. Well… I’m pretty sure this has people sitting up and taking notice.

    Mag 6.1
    * Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 13:31:46 UTC
    Location 35.322°N, 138.552°E
    Depth 1 km (~0.6 mile) set by location program

    That is west of Tokyo near the triple junction. If you remember, there was a 5.1 over near the other end of the transform that connects the two trenches.

    1. This was not an aftershock, according to NHK (Japanese television channel, in English). And they says that it was Mag 6.4 and 14km deep.

    2. Well, I’m not saying that it is.

      But when you look at the context of the energy release with the M7.2 “non foreshock according to a Michiu Kaku wanabe”, then the M9.0 that has a series of actual dyed in the wool passes the Harvard™ sniff test that seem to be tracking south of the main shock, then this … this…. “thing” that is “not an aftershock” but on the border of the same plate segment / further back on the accretion wedge… that just happens to be in the vicinity of where the big “scare the bejevous out of your kids” quake is supposed to be….

      You have to go “hmm….”

  6. Hi, newbee and fellow lurker here.

    I am purely a novice here, but does this new earthquake at this depth not set off alarm bells re the potential of this new fault becoming under increased strain esp with the ferocity of the main quakes and aftershock.


    I would definately not be hanging around over there…..

    1. I’m thinking no.

      Depth is one of the harder things to determine when it comes to finding the location. As for Mt Fuji, you never can rule out a volcano when stuff is jumping around near it. But there are no indications that Fuji has any activity of concern.

      No… the big worry here is a set-up to a similar run like the Ansei Great Earthquakes from the mid 1800’s (1854-56) which had two 8.4s and a 6.9 occurring in the Tokyo region. That’s why the focus on the latitude and “is the stress moving south? ” In 1923, they had another rather large one almost under Tokyo, and from what I can gather it was less than 10 km deep. (“Faulting of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 as revealed by Seismological Data” – Hiroo Kanamori, 1970)

      Poking around at some of the data in that paper, my gut feel (and where the plot-lines wanted to coalesce) it was probably closer to 1.2 km deep. It was Mag 7.9 and virtually in Tokyo.

      Right about now, what Mt Fuji is up to isn’t really weighing heavy on their minds.

    2. Oh yeah… I forgot my plot.


      The Sagami trough is a transform fault connecting the junction of Japan Trench / Izu Ogasawara Trench to the Nanki Trough / (something I can’t pronounce) Seismic Zone junction.

      That’s pretty much a triple junction at either end ot the Sagami trough, one on either side of Tokyo. And seismically speaking, triple junctions never stay quiet for long.

      1. Do you think the 9.0 quake and aftershocks will have any effect on the Tokai earthquake area? This is ‘due’ (as in the pattern is on average 111years +/- 33years and the last one was 151 years ago) and could be just as devastating.

      2. What I think doesn’t matter. I’m not a geologist. I have some pretty strange and unorthodox views with regard to stress movement across a plate, but it’s so ephemeral that I can’t even voice it correctly.

        I think yes. Mainly because of the proximity of all these events. But, I can be very wrong in my opinion. Wouldn’t be the first time, probably won’t be the last (lest we get whacked by an asteroid or something).

        In fact, I’ll be totally up front with you and clearly state that there is a lot about this system that don’t know. I’m still reading.

  7. Is it possible for a tsunami to hit Iceland, or are the plate dynamics different?

    1. Tsunamis in the Atlantic or Arctic happen far less often than the Pacific, because there aren’t many areas with subduction zones in the Atlantic (somewhere in the Carribean, and maybe one off Africa?). Earthquakes along subduction zone which is what triggers most tsunami from undersea earthquakes.

      You don’t get typically see tsunami from earthquakes along slip strike or other types of faulting, or divergent plate boundaries. They can happen but it would normally be from some secondary event such as a landslide or undersea collapse.

      You can see them from undersea volcano if there is a flank collapse. Glacier calving can also cause tsunami. Both of these are quite rare. Impact events from meteors could also cause tsunami but of course that can happen anywhere and not something you can really worry about.

      Jökulhlaup can also cause a tsunami, I don’t think many people really know about this one. There is some danger of one from Vatnajökull hitting the Vestmannaeyjar but it is unlikely to cause much damage. I do remember some articles about it during the 2010 eruption. Though I haven’t researched this very much and would love to know more about it if anyone has some good information.

      Of course the southern coast is at risk of any event most anywhere in the Atlantic. But Reykjavík itself is somewhat sheltered by geography. It might be at risk of a large event (La Palma collapse?) in the Atlantic via wave diffraction, or landslide / glacier calving off Greenland that would strike directly.

    2. I’m gonna parrot Sealittle. Very good post.

      If you want to learn more about what may or may not have affected that area tsunami wise, read up on the Storegga Slide

      A quick wikipedia link.


      But if you want to do some digging on your own, fire up Google, select advanced search, put the phrase Storegga Slide (or some variation of that) then select file type pdf. You’ll snag links to all sorts of stuff off of the beaten path. After you weed through the “pay to read” stuff, you can find some decent material.

    3. Thanks Lurking, though, you did spell my name wrong. No worries. 🙂

      One other theory I have: Tsunami triggered by an undersea landslide, at the oceanic sediments deposited offshore by the jökulhlaup (glacial burst flood) from Katla volcano. The flood itself can and has triggered localized tsunami before, but also the flooding has deposited sediments on the sea floor out to the edge of the shelf. I don’t know how stable these sediments are. Typically river delta sediments are pretty stable or at least don’t often have large collapses that cause big problems. But these sediment are deposited by a bit different mechanic and I imagine would have a much different cross section as far as material sizes and composition go. And most river deltas are not that close to the shelf drop off, I don’t know what role that might have though.
      This is not my original idea as I have seen it a few other places. But I don’t know that it’s been examined by scientists in detail before. I couldn’t find any reports from previous queries on this topic.

      1. Sorry about the name mangling. I had rather bad experience dealing with idiots (a select few at the dept head and division officer level) on a ship named Seattle. Any thing with “sea” in it causes me to go into a mental blackout as I run around punching the wall and cursing at the top of my lungs…

        … okay, I exaggerate.

        One mechanism that has been considered as making the Storegga slide so nasty is a triggered methane hydrate release. Either from the slide or causing the slide. If I remember correctly, temporally, this could have sped up coming out of the ice age and the later inundation of the Black sea.

        Not sure, I haven’t looked at it in a while.

  8. I have noticed some strong quakes in Japan the past hours, really shallow. Does this deepth mean anything or is it normal for aftershocks?

    1. I don’t think depth of a few quakes means much by itself, aftershocks can and do happen anywhere along the affected fault. If you look at the entire event series and notice trending in a certain direction or depth along the fault then it can give you some information about the way stress is travelling along the system.

      IANA geologist.

      Also, unrelated, but this captcha is a little silly and I thought I would share it: http://i.imgur.com/jFET3.jpg

      1. Which is migrating closer to Tokyo along with the contaminated wind.

        This nation is being tested to the core.

  9. There did follow a litle \tsunami \ from Katla Jökulhlaup after eruption 1721 and 1918. It hit Vestmannaeyjar, but only affected boats and boat-houses.

  10. At the same time as the earthquake hit Japan it happened something quite odd in a norwegian fjord, Sognefjorden. Waves appeared at the calm fjord, it seemed like “boiling”. This is from the norwegian newspaper VG…, there is also a video about the event. http://www.vg.no/nyheter/utenriks/jordskjelv-i-japan/artikkel.php?artid=10082949 Use google translate.

    My question is, could this really happen because of the quake in Japan? It seems really strange to me, what do you think?

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