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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid