News / Asia

Tsunami Warnings Issued in Pacific From Japan to Peru

With a tsunami warning in effect for Northern California, a surfer enters the water at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, March 11, 2011
With a tsunami warning in effect for Northern California, a surfer enters the water at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, March 11, 2011

Multimedia

Audio

Widespread tsunami warnings were issued Friday, after an earthquake off the coast of Japan unleashed waves that posed threats throughout the Pacific.   One tsunami researcher said that while the tsunami warning system worked well, it remains difficult to make predictions about how damaging those waves might be.

A tsunami warning siren pierced the night in Hawaii and elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean Friday, after an 8.9 earthquake near the east coast of Honshu, Japan, generated tsunami waves, which move as fast as a jetliner.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a widespread warning from Japan to Peru.  

Laura Furgione is the deputy assistant administrator at NOAA National Weather Service. She said warnings can remain in effect well after tsunami waves first hit a coastline because surges, currents and waves can pose problems for up to 12 hours. Furgione said NOAA updates its warnings using information gathered by 32 deep-ocean buoys that gauge sea levels in the Pacific.    

"That information is put into our models, and we update the models and the advisories and warnings appropriately. So we were expecting some of the first waves into the Hawaiian islands around 8 a.m. and that's exactly what happened."  

Phil Liu, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University in New York, said the early warning system worked well because the predicted arrival times were accurate. Liu helped to develop the tsunami coastal warning system for countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean.

"I firmly believe that the most important thing in the early warning system is to estimate the arrival time accurately so you can warn people to get away from the coast."

Liu noted that while scientists were able to accurately predict the waves' arrival, it is difficult to predict the potential size or destructiveness of tsunami waves.

"Usually when a tsunami propagates into the ocean, the wave amplitude or the size of the wave is not all that big - a meter or two at most. However, when these waves propagate into shallow water, they tend to become bigger. Exactly how big these waves will become really depends on the local bathymetry, how water depths vary, and also the configuration or orientation of the shoreline also plays an important role in determining exactly how big the wave might end up," said Liu.

Researchers explain that that earthquake off the coast of Japan resulted from a thrust event between the Pacific tectonic plate and an extension of the North American tectonic plate.  
Senior science advisor for earthquakes and geologic hazards at the U.S. Geological Survey, Dave Applegate, said, "In the case of an undersea earthquake like this, you're transmitting energy not only through the crust, which is the strong shaking that is damaging to people and buildings, but you're also transmitting a lot of that energy into the water, and of course that represents the other part of this disaster which is the tsunami."

Applegate said aftershocks can continue for days, months and even years. Liu said while aftershocks usually do not spawn tsunamis, there are no guarantees.

And while Japan is one of the most seismically active places on Earth, Applegate said an earthquake of this magnitude is rare, even for the so-called "Ring of Fire."

"The only evidence we have is from monastic records going back to A.D. 869 - 1,200 years ago - of an earthquake of this magnitude rupturing along the plate boundary."

While experts have to delve into history to find an earthquake of this scope near Japan, lessons learned in recent history may have helped reduce the scale of this disaster. Tsunami researcher Liu said the public is more informed about the dangers of tsunamis, and warning systems were improved, after the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

You May Like

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by a joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop billions of dollars from illegally being moved out of continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid