In Pictures: Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

After Tsunami: Ishinomaki

Ishinomaki in satellite image after tsunami

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.)

The Japanese city of Ishinomaki was one of the hardest hit when a powerful tsunami swept ashore on March 11, 2011. Here, an image taken from NASA's Terra satellite three days later, on March 14, shows water (dark blue) still inundates the city. (Red indicates plant cover.)

Before Tsunami: Ishinomaki

Ishinomaki before tsunami hit

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.)

A NASA satellite image shows Ishinomaki, a Japanese city hit hard by the March 11 tsunami, before the disaster, on Aug. 8, 2008. Here, water levels (dark blue) are at their normal levels, and plant cover (red) is spread across large swaths of the city.

Tsunami Coastal Damage

Tsunami damage along Japan coast

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

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.

Stuck Albatross

albatross hurt by Japan tsunami

(Image credit: Pete Leary/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

A Laysan albatross chick that was found stuck in tsunami debris.

Injured Albatross

injured albatross

(Image credit: Pete Leary/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Injured birds rest on a floating island of debris in the lagoon at Midway Atoll, after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan.

Tsunami Cleanup

Misawa, Japan, cleanup by U.S. Navy

(Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Devon Dow/Released)

A sailor assigned to Naval Air Facility Misawa hauls debris during a cleanup effort at the Misawa Fishing Port, located in the eastern Aomori Prefecture in the T?hoku region of northeastern Japan. More than 90 sailors from Naval Air Facility Misawa volunteered to help Misawa City employees and members of the community begin to clean up after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck the area.

Dogs in Japan

rescue dogs help out in Sendai, Japan.

(Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Daniel Sanford/Released)

Staff Sgt. Travis Lausier, right, and Spc. Jason Hayes, both assigned to the Japan District Veterinary Command, Misawa Branch,draw blood from "Lago," while his handler, Tim Dinges, comforts him. Dinges and Lago are with Virginia Task Force 1 of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, and arrived at Naval Air Facility Misawa to take part in search and rescue efforts in Sendai, Japan.

After: Kitakami River

Kitakami River after Japan tsunami

(Image credit: NASA)

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

Kitakami River before tsunami hit Japan

(Image credit: NASA)

This satellite image taken from an instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite captured the Kitakami River and surrounding area on Jan. 16, 2011, before the earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan. (Blue represents water; vegetation in red; and beige and brown for fallow fields.)

Before and After: Torinoumi

Torinoumi on the eastern coast of Japan

(Image credit: RapidEye AG, DLR, Google Earth. Map produced by ZKI)

These images were acquired by the German Optical RapidEye and radar TerraSAR-X satellites. They show Torinoumi on the eastern coast of Japan before the disaster on Sept. 5 2010 and after the tsunami on March 12, 2011. The German Aerospace Center, DLR, is responding to the disaster through its Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information to provide information for the International Charter.

Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.