Taxonomy term


Opportunist organisms rafted across the Pacific on plastic

Since World War II, fiberglass and plastic — which are stronger, lighter and require less maintenance than wood — have become the materials of choice for coastal infrastructure like docks. An unforeseen consequence of this transition, however, is that when structures built from these durable materials break free from their moorings and drift out to sea, they can serve as resilient rafts for opportunistic organisms. 

21 Nov 2017

Alaskan subduction zone mirrors Tohoku zone that unleashed tsunami

In 2011, a large swath of coastal Japan was devastated and more than 15,000 people were killed when the magnitude-9.1 Tohoku earthquake unleashed massive tsunami waves that inundated land with run-up heights of 30 meters in places. In a new study, researchers have discovered that the seafloor off the Alaska Peninsula exhibits structures and fault patterns similar to the region where the Tohoku quake originated — a finding that may indicate a higher tsunami risk for coastal Alaska than previously thought.

20 Nov 2017

Gravity changes may warn of large earthquakes

Large earthquakes alter the planet’s gravitational field by displacing big portions of the crust. In a new study looking at earthquake-induced gravity signals produced by Japan’s magnitude-9 Tohoku quake in 2011, researchers conclude that such signals may prove useful in earthquake early warning systems.

10 Mar 2017

Surprise quake at Mount Fuji triggered by rising gases

On March 15, 2011, four days after the magnitude-9 Tohoku megathrust earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, a magnitude-5.9 earthquake shook the southern flank of Mount Fuji. Seismicity has been rare at the volcano since its last eruption in 1707, leading many researchers to suspect that the Fuji quake — which hit about 300 kilometers southwest of the megaquake — was remotely triggered by the Tohoku event. In a new study, scientists looking at the volcano’s underlying structure and plumbing have offered a potential mechanism for how Tohoku’s shaking could have touched off the Fuji earthquake: through rising gas-rich fluids released from the magma chamber beneath the volcano.

27 May 2016

A decade of slow slip may have preceded Japan's 2011 earthquake

Everyone notices when a fault ruptures quickly — the ground shakes and shudders, and sometimes, the seas churn. However, tectonic plates can also creep past each other so slowly that it’s almost imperceptible. Researchers say they’ve now identified the longest example to date of this type of movement along the Japan Trench in the decade leading up to the devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake that shook the island of Honshu in 2011.

12 May 2015

Giant quake sloshed fjords half a world away

On the morning of March 11, 2011, Leif Hus and his wife Gry Melas Hus were having breakfast in their kitchen overlooking Sognefjord in Leikanger, Norway. It was low tide on a calm and windless day with near-freezing temperatures. As they stood, coffee cups in hand, looking out the window at the fjord, they saw an unusual wave roll in. The wave continued to rise, surging over the seawall into their backyard before receding back into the fjord. Then another wave surged in, and another. As the water rose, engulfing the ladder on their dock, Leif grabbed his cell phone and started filming.

02 Dec 2013

Well-healed faults produce high-frequency earthquake waves

Much like our voices create sound waves with a variety of low and high pitches, or frequencies, earthquakes also produce seismic waves over a spectrum of frequencies. The seismic waves’ frequencies determine, in part, how far they travel and how damaging they are to human-made structures. But teasing out the details of how quake-generating faults influence seismic frequencies is no easy task, mainly because faults tend to be buried deep underground.

10 Mar 2013

Voices: From Haiti to Japan: A tale of two disaster recoveries

A year ago this month, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan. Two years and two months earlier, on Jan. 12, 2010, a much smaller earthquake devastated Haiti. Both earthquakes occurred on a weekday and in the afternoon, but there is very little else that is similar about these two events or how the countries have recovered.

09 Mar 2012