If you’re looking for an easy to understand scientific explanation about the formation of the devastating quake and tsunami that devastated Japan this Friday, you’d better read Dr. John Ebel‘s theory from below, Professor of geophysics and director of Weston Observatory of Boston College.
“We had an earthquake caused by the Pacific Ocean plate sliding under the Asian plate and as it slides under the Asian plate is pushed up…any time you move the ocean floor up or down you induce a tsunami in the ocean. Tsunamis travel fast when the ocean is deep they travel slowly when the ocean is shallow. When the ocean is deep, the wave spreads out so you have maybe a foot high wave that’s spread out hundreds of miles and it’s traveling at literally 500 miles an hour.”
Dr. Ebel says at those speeds land masses close to the epicenter like the Japanese island of Honshu had only minutes to prepare where as Hawaii and the west coast had hours. “When you get to islands like Hawaii which are thousands of miles away you have hours and hours of warning…they had about 6 or 8 hours of warning.”
Just like a single rain drop spreads across a pond a tsunami circumnavigates the globe. “Tide gages for instance in Mobile Bay and on the Gulf coast will register a very small recording probably tonight or early tomorrow morning from this tsunami. It will spread through all the ocean basins.”
On the same wavelength, Dr. Ebel says that it’s very possible strong aftershocks could be experienced within the next few days or weeks. Some could even be large enough that another small tsunami is generated…
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!