Lessons From Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami
The Californian coast, Hawaii, and the entire Pacific Rim have been plagued by a series of tsunami warnings ever since Japan’s coast was hit by a powerful earthquake. However, much of the flooding and destruction seems to have been concentrated in the areas surrounding the epicenter of the quake. However, experts have suggested that with earthquakes of such magnitudes, this kind of destruction was expected.
Some of these experts have made the observation that just as expected, two tsunamis were generated, with the first and most destructive striking the coast of Japan in a span of minutes after the earthquake, while the second tsunami traveled further out to sea and the energy was dissipated; thus causing no damage. In some instances however, feature along the coastline have been known to amplify a tsunami’s energy, hence making the second wave just as deadly as the first one.
The recent tsunamis in the Pacific Rim followed the expected pattern whereby the height of the first tsunami waves off Japan’s coastline, in the regions close to the earthquake’s epicenter, were reported to have reached over 12 feet; bringing with it massive devastation. The second tsunami however, according to reports, barely reached 7 feet. This is an indication that most of the energy was dissipated as the tsunami waves approached the North American coastline; therefore, the destruction was minimal.
Predicting the extent of damage that a tsunami might cause is quite difficult. This is because the waves travel long distances before reaching any land mass, and as they approach the coastline, the features along the specific coastlines is what will normally determine the strength with which the tsunami will strike. As such, every coastline is unique, making it almost impossible to estimate the expected height of a tsunami wave. To exacerbate matters, tsunamis are so rare, such that the data available is not sufficient to be used for prediction.