On the Ground in Japan
The events in Japan these last few days have been cataclysmic, and we still don’t know the full extent of destruction of lives and property. We do know that the earthquake was upgraded from 7.9 to 8.8, then 8.9 and now will be recorded as an historic 9.0 megathrust event which moved Japan’s main island of Honshu 7.9 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis by 3.9 inches (10 cm) per Deutsche Welle; or, if you take the numbers from the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, they state that the earth’s axis was shifted over twice that much — 9.8 inches (25 cm) shortening the length of a day and the tilt of the earth. To put this in perspective for my California readers:
1971 Sylmar SoCal quake was a 6.6 that lasted 30 seconds
1989 Loma Prieta NorCal quake was a 6.9 that lasted 10-15 seconds
1994 Northridge SoCal quake was a 6.7 that lasted 10-20 seconds
2011 Sendai Japan quake was a 9.0 that lasted over 180 seconds and was followed 2o minutes later by a 7.0, nine minutes after that with a 7.4, and then a 7.2 eleven minutes after that one! It seemed that the earth didn’t stop vibrating from the first quake before the next one started in that first hour.
Because of the logarithmic basis of the scale, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase in measured amplitude; in terms of energy, each whole number increase corresponds to an increase of about 31.6 times the amount of energy released, and each increase of 0.2 corresponds to a doubling of the energy released. The USGS estimated the energy output from the 9.0 quake to be 600 million times the bomb at Hiroshima (9.32 teratons of TNT).
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency over 500 aftershocks of greater than 4.5 have been recorded, and according to a BBC Interactive Map, more than 20 of these have been greater than 6.0. As you now know, Japanese building methods saved thousands of lives as structures are designed to move with the shaking instead of breaking, and that the tsunami was more destructive and failing nuclear reactors potentially even more so.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The US State Department has vetted and issued a list of 28 ways you can donate to Japan’s recovery. Click this link for detailed information: InterAction Members Support Japan Tsunami Response
My traveling companion Jim and I were fortunate to suffer no harm, only uncertainty and a weekend of inconvenience. Many thousands in Northern Japan are not so fortunate, so I hope that you can consider some way to help them. In the meantime, I have some words and photos to share about Japan and will post several essays in the days to come.