It was tragedy on an extraordinary scale a quake so powerful it not the earth off its axis tens of thousands dead the whole of Japan shifted three meters out to see part of the coast dropped over a meter what were the forces that came together to create this horrifying disaster a team of scientists is investigating never before have we had such as a surplus of data.
There are no mysteries in the south we know exactly what happened Japan’s coast lies in ruins incredibly it could have been even worse this is the untold story of how science save lives.
How scientists are piecing together exactly what happened. Professor Roger bilham is a world-leading earthquake expert he’s in Japan to witness the immediate aftermath. So we’re flying right over the coast right now and that much of the coast has some about a metre, the center of the damage is truly amazing.
Tsunami picked up everything in its part cars houses warehouses and just tumbled them relentlessly in land on and on and on. One of the things i’d like to see is exactly how very wins kind of Deborah get left behind on these gigantic balloon is the first geologists to conduct an aerial survey of the damage every detail of the disaster has been recorded by seismometers strain gauges and tidal gauges.
Allowing experts to analyze exactly what happened but this was first and foremost a human tragedy on an unimaginable scale and that’s gonna need to be able to expect it which ripped away much of Japan’s infrastructure.
One of the world’s most developed nations brought to its knees as rescue workers pick through the debris villain and other scientists around the world take on the challenge of understanding the massive earthquake in the hope of one day avoiding such loss of life.
The source of the disaster lay 100 kilometers off the coast beneath six kilometers of water the earth was distorting a vast slow motion collision the Earth’s crust is made up of several Colton and sized slabs of rock tectonic plates Japan lies on a boundary between these plates the Pacific plate is ramming into it at eight centimeters a year about the same speed your fingernails growth the Pacific plate drives underneath it snagging and catching as it goes the plate the japan sits on compresses and buckles under the strain over decades and centuries in men stresses building.
The energy that drove this earthquake have been building up for a couple of hundred years caused by the movement of the Pacific plate towards the Eurasian Plate think of it as a giant elastic band that’s being wild up two hundred years in march the 11 2011a – 46 p.m. japanese time the stress is reached breaking point out of energy released an earthquake of the size is really huge and you have to measure it in large units if you take the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima.
This event was probably two million of those really huge amount of energy shock waves radiated out the fastest known as P waves traveled at six kilometers a second Japan’s detection systems pick them up instantly within seconds before anyone realized what was going on automatic mornings flashed across the country a computer-generated announcement even interrupted.
A Japanese Parliament broadcast by the time the warning system kicked in the coastal city of sendai just a hundred and thirty kilometers from where the earth quake originated was shaking the slower but more destructive shockwaves called s-waves had now arrived these waves travel at three kilometers a second they threw north east japan into chaos as the shockwaves raced outward a hundred and fifty kilometers southwest of the epicenter they slam past Fukushima Daiichi an aging nuclear power station housing six reactors and generating four and a half gigawatts of electricity for the local grid.
This footage from a town near the reactor give some idea of the earthquakes power Japan’s morning system that automatically shut down the reactions cooling them would take time when you think shut down anything up you know it’s the danger is gone because it’s shut down but the reactor core was still extremely hot.
You know if you have a pan in the oven and you shut the oven off that haven’t continues to heat inside even after you’ve turned it off after shutdown emergency diesel generators kicked into pump coolant through the reactor cause Fukushima survived the earthquake intact but there was one big problem it stands just metres from the sea 11,000 kilometers away at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii staff got emergency pager messages within ten seconds of the earthquake starting its effects were already being monitored around the world.
Japan has lots of seismometers so there was a lot of information fast so the earthquake was still going on when we got our page first indications a magnitude of around seven but as data flooded in the figures started to climb 7.5 7.7 up into the eights the immediate reaction of everybody was that’s not right because in the history of Japan there has never been an earthquake larger than 8.4 really heightened are in the intensity of what we were doing because we knew we were dealing with something very big and something that could affect the whole Pacific Basin we realized old this is it and and then immediately you realize this is horrible for Japan 100 seconds since the fault line slipped