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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid