Japan from Above
On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. local time (05:46 UTC), a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan. The epicenter was 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Sendai, and 231 miles (373 km) northeast of Tokyo. If initial measurements are confirmed, it will be the world’s fifth largest earthquake since 1900 and the worst in Japan's history.
This image of Japan from 1999 was taken as part of SeaWiFS, the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor Project.
Japan Earthquake Seismograph
The 8.9-magnitude (which may have been upgraded to a 9.0) earthquake that struck Japan triggered tsunamis across the region. Here, results from a computer model run by the Center for Tsunami Research at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory show the expected wave heights of the tsunami as it travels across the Pacific basin.
The largest wave heights are expected near the earthquake epicenter, off the coast of Sendai, Honshu, Japan. The wave will decrease in height as it travels across the deep Pacific but grow taller as it nears coastal areas. In general, as the energy of the wave decreases with distance, the near-shore heights will also decrease. For example, coastal Hawaii will not expect heights of that encountered in coastal Japan, according to NOAA.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake occurred at a depth of 15.2 miles (24.4 km) beneath the seafloor.
tsunami hazard sign
Santa Cruz Waves
In the aftermath of the massive earthquake that struck northeastern Japan at 2:46 p.m. local time on March 11, 2011, and its subsequent tsunami, several oil refineries and industrial complexes caught fire, including facilities in the Port of Sendai and a petrochemical facility in Shiogama, where a large explosion has been reported. This pair of images, acquired on March 12, 2011 by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft, shows a large smoke plume that appears to be associated either with the Shiogama incident or the Sendai port fires. The presence of clouds makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact origin. The data were obtained at a local time of about 10:30 a.m.
The separation between the red and cyan images is known as stereo parallax, and is related to the height of the observed features above the surface. Viewing the anaglyph with red-cyan glasses (red filter over the left eye) gives a perception of height. No separation is visible for the coastline, which is at sea level, but the clouds and plume are distinctly elevated. The height of the plume is estimated to be about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), at a similar altitude as the nearby clouds.
After Tsunami: Ishinomaki
Before Tsunami: Ishinomaki
Tsunami Coastal Damage
On March 13, 2011, floodwaters lingered along the Japanese coast near the city of Sendai, in the aftermath of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake. An Expedition 26 crew member took this photograph from an altitude of 220 miles (350 km) above ground.
Both agricultural fields and settled areas are shown submerged by muddy water. The earthquake caused severe damage to oil refineries, some of which caught fire. In the aftermath of the oil-refinery damage, oil floated on the surface of Ishinomaki Bay, with oil slicks highlighted here by the sunglint, or the mirror-like of the sun on the ocean surface.
Dogs in Japan
After: Kitakami River
In the wake of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in March 2011, ocean waters flooded croplands and settlements lining the Kitakami River. The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite captured false-color images before and after the tsunami.
In this image, captured on March 14, 2011, you can see water (blue) has spilled over the banks both north and south of the river. Although agricultural fields appear to have escaped the flooding farther inland (image left), some fields closer to the ocean have seemingly disappeared into the sea. North of the Kitakami, floodwaters extend far enough inland to create what looks like a parallel river. Near the coast, only the rugged peaks rising above the floodplains have escaped inundation. (Fallow fields appear in shades of beige and brown. Vegetation is red, and the brighter the red, the more robust the vegetation.)
Before: Kitakami River
Before and After: Torinoumi
Fukushima Nuclear Plant
Damage in Rikuzentakata, Japan
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactors
Dog Sticks by Injured Friend
Japan power losses
One of the consequences of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11 was the widespread loss of electricity. Multiple areas along the coast experienced power losses, particularly around the city of Sendai. On March 12, 2011, satellite F-18 of the U.S. Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) observed electricity losses in parts of northeastern Japan.
This composite image compares observations after the earthquake to images of lights observed in 2010. Yellow indicates lights that were functioning in both 2010 and 2011, and includes Tokyo and areas to the south and west. Red indicates power outages detected on March 12, 2011, compared with data from 2010. Areas of power loss include Sendai, and coastal locations north of Tokyo. Blue indicates clouds; Magenta indicates lights obscured by clouds. Bright green spots also may indicate new lights detected in 2011 that were not observed in 2010.