NEES tsunami expert says improved research tools helped predict impact of this week's Japan earthquake

Dec 11, 2012 by Phillip Fiorini

(—A leading tsunami researcher affiliated with the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) says improved computational models helped in more accuratelypredicting the impact of a strong earthquake near Japan on Friday.

Solomon Yim, the Glenn Willis Holcomb Professor in Structural Engineering at Oregon State University, said authorities at the , the (NOAA) and the (NWS) sent out a information bulletin 8 minutes after the earthquake, stating "nodestructive widespread tsunami threat exists" to the areas with and bordering the Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas.

That bulletin came after data compiled by researchers indicated there was no risk of a widespread tsunami from the magnitude 7.3 earthquake, said Yim, the principal investigator of the Tsunami Research Facility Site Operation Project for NEES, funded by the National Science Foundation.

"The system worked. This is real success story interms of more accurately predicting in real time what the impact might be," Yim said. "The tsunami information to the distance areas of the United States and elsewhere was provided quickly, saving a lot of unnecessary anxiety and potential economic loss."

The Japan Meteorological Agency said Friday's quake struck in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Miyagi prefecture. The epicenter was 6.2miles beneath the seabed.

After the quake, which caused buildings in Tokyo to sway for several minutes, authorities issued a warning that a tsunami potentially as high as 2.19 yards could hit. Ishinomaki, a city in Miyagi, reported that a tsunami of 1 yard hit.

It was a different story a year ago.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that slammed into northeastern Japan killed or left missing some 19,000 people, devastating much of the coast. All but two of Japan's nuclear plants were shut down for checks after the earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant in the worst nuclear disaster since the1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Purdue University entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation in October 2009 to lead NEES and its experimental facilities at universities across the country.

Through NEES, researchers are developing tools to learn how earthquakes impact the buildings, bridges, utility systems and other critical components of today's society. From that knowledge will come new design guidelines that will make structures better able to withstand earthquake demands.

Yim's research topics include hydroelasticity, free-surface flow and fluid contact/impact on deformable marine structures; waves, tsunami, storm surge and loads modeling and simulation in field and laboratory environments; and mechanics of wave-energy conversion systems.

Explore further: New USGS report: Coastal erosion threatens northern Alaska

Related Stories

Tsunami not yet detected: expert

Apr 02, 2007

Although the Bureau of Metereology had issued a tsunami warning, at this stage a tsunami had not yet been detected, a University of Queensland geophysicist said this morning.

Japan estimates monster quake could kill 320,000

Aug 29, 2012

Japan's government on Wednesday unveiled a worst case disaster scenario that warned a monster earthquake in the Pacific Ocean could kill over 320,000 people, dwarfing last year's quake-tsunami disaster.

Japan experts warn of future risk of giant tsunami

Apr 01, 2012

(AP) -- Much of Japan's Pacific coast could be inundated by a tsunami more than 34 meters (112 feet) high if a powerful earthquake hits offshore, according to revised estimates by a government panel.

Nine dead in Indonesian earthquake

Sep 12, 2007

Officials reported at least nine people were killed and more than 100 injured after a strong earthquake and an aftershock struck the Indian Ocean Wednesday.

Strong earthquake hits off El Salvador coast

Aug 27, 2012

(AP)—A strong magnitude-7.4 earthquake struck off the coast of El Salvador and a tsunami warning was issued but there were no immediate reports of damages or injuries, authorities said early Monday.

Cause of tsunami wave heights is studied

Aug 20, 2007

Irish-led scientists have found tsunami wave height is independent of earthquake magnitude and is instead linked to a rupture's vertical displacement.

Recommended for you

Creating a stopwatch for volcanic eruptions

7 hours ago

We've long known that beneath the scenic landscapes of Yellowstone National Park sleeps a supervolcano with a giant chamber of hot, partly molten rock below it.

Can lightning strike an indoor pool?

18 hours ago

Two swimming pool weather policies have surprised me in recent years. One was when I showed up to swim laps at an outdoor pool as it was beginning to drizzle. "Come on in," I was told; as long as there was no lightning, the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.