Quake moved Japan by 8 feet: USGS

Mar 13, 2011
White smokes rises into the air in the badly damaged town of Yamada. Japan's recent massive earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, appears to have moved the island by about eight feet (2.4 meters), the US Geological Survey said.

Japan's recent massive earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, appears to have moved the island by about eight feet (2.4 meters), the US Geological Survey said.

"That's a reasonable number," USGS Paul Earle told AFP. "Eight feet, that's certainly going to be in the ballpark."

Friday's 8.9 magnitude quake unleashed a terrifying tsunami that engulfed towns and cities on Japan's northeastern coast, destroying everything in its path in what Prime Minister Naoto Kan said was an "unprecedented national disaster."

The quake and its tectonic shift resulted from "thrust faulting" along the boundary of the Pacific and North America plates, according to the USGS.

The Pacific plate pushes under a far western wedge of the North America plate at the rate of about 3.3 inches (83 millimeters) per year, but a colossal earthquake can provide enough of a jolt to dramatically move the plates, with catastrophic consequences.

"With an earthquake this large, you can get these huge ground shifts," Earle said. "On the actual fault you can get 20 meters (65 feet) of relative movement, on the two sides of the fault."

He said similar movements would have been seen for Chile and Indonesia.

In December 2004, a 9.1 magnitude quake off caused a tsunami that killed an estimated 228,000 people. An 8.8 quake off the coast of Chile in February 2010 killed more than 500.

There was not a similar ground shift in the 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti in February 2010, Earle said.

"A magnitude 7.0 is much smaller than the earthquake that just happened in Japan," he said. "We've had (in Japan) larger than the Haiti ."

Kenneth Hudnut, a USGS geophysicist, said experts read data including from global positioning systems to determine the extend of the shift.

"We know that one GPS station moved (eight feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass," he told CNN.

Explore further: Kiribati leader visits Arctic on climate mission

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Chile quake in 'elite class' like 2004 Asian quake

Feb 28, 2010

(AP) -- The huge earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile belongs to an "elite class" of mega earthquakes, experts said, and is similar to the 2004 Indian Ocean temblor that triggered deadly tsunami ...

Chile aftershocks could go on for years: scientists

Mar 05, 2010

Chileans will be feeling aftershocks from the devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake for months and possibly years to come, scientists said Friday, as three strong tremors rocked the country.

High aftershock risk for Haiti in next 30 days: USGS

Jan 22, 2010

Earthquake-hit Haiti faces a high risk of possibly damaging aftershocks for at least 30 days and is set to suffer further tremors for months or even years to come, the US Geological Survey said Friday.

Chilean Earthquake Triggers Smaller Than Expected Tsunami

Mar 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- While a huge earthquake off the coast of Chile triggered a tsunami that moved at the speed of a jet aircraft across the Pacific Ocean Feb. 27, the event was smaller scientists expected, said a University ...

Recommended for you

Kiribati leader visits Arctic on climate mission

4 hours ago

Fearing that his Pacific island nation could be swallowed by a rising ocean, the president of Kiribati says a visit to the melting Arctic has helped him appreciate the scale of the threat.

NASA catches a weaker Edouard, headed toward Azores

19 hours ago

NASA's Aqua satellite passed over the Atlantic Ocean and captured a picture of Tropical Storm Edouard as it continues to weaken. The National Hurricane Center expects Edouard to affect the western Azores ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Zahadum
not rated yet Mar 13, 2011
And now volcanic activity.
cyberCMDR
5 / 5 (6) Mar 13, 2011
I wonder how long it will take Pat Robertson to figure out a "reason" for God to hit Japan with this earthquake. I doubt it will be a "pact with the devil" like the Haitians, but he will probably think of something.
RayWilson
5 / 5 (4) Mar 13, 2011
Displacement is a vector quantity. In what direction was Japan moved 8 feet?
douglaskostyk
5 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2011
primarily to the east (108 degrees) based on inverted slip model.
yyz
not rated yet Mar 13, 2011
"And now volcanic activity"

I've seen reports of a renewed eruption of the Shinmoedake volcano on Mount Kirishima: http://www.nowpub...505.html

This volcano experienced its largest eruption in 50 years back in late January of this year. Some pics here: http://www.dailym...ars.html
trekgeek1
Mar 13, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
neiorah
Mar 14, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Bob_Kob
1 / 5 (2) Mar 14, 2011
I guess google has to update their maps..
Moebius
Mar 14, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Bog_Mire
1 / 5 (1) Mar 14, 2011
I guess google has to update their maps..

Yeah, what a pain for them.
Telekinetic
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 14, 2011
I wonder how long it will take Pat Robertson to figure out a "reason" for God to hit Japan with this earthquake. I doubt it will be a "pact with the devil" like the Haitians, but he will probably think of something.

Why, Pearl Harbor, of course.