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8.0 Earthquake in Hokkaido, Japan
September 25, 2003 1:57 PM   Subscribe

8.0 Earthquake in Hokkaido, Japan. Holy crap. The Kobe quake in 1994 was a 6.9 - am I right to think that an 8.0 is about ten times worse than that one? Any mefites in Japan who can give us more information?
posted by majcher (61 comments total)

 
10 times as powerful by the definition of the Richter scale, but the effects are likely going to be far worse. From a random link:

"The Richter scale is logarithmic, that is an increase of 1 magnitude unit represents a factor of ten times in amplitude. The seismic waves of a magnitude 6 earthquake are 10 times greater in amplitude than those of a magnitude 5 earthquake. However, in terms of energy release, a magnitude 6 earthquake is about 31 times greater than a magnitude 5. "
posted by Irontom at 2:03 PM on September 25, 2003


A friend of mine just told me that a tsunami warning has been issued, as well, and that there's gas fires all over the place. The breaking story from the BBC seems to confirm this.

(And, I know, NewsFilter - but, you know, seems pretty important to me.)
posted by majcher at 2:07 PM on September 25, 2003


FYI, text of NOAA tsunami bulletin available here (although they say they have had no reports of tsunami yet).
posted by carter at 2:14 PM on September 25, 2003


Coverage on MSNBC.com, but still nothing on CNN.
posted by jpoulos at 2:20 PM on September 25, 2003


Jesus Christ, that's horrible. I guess the only consolation is Hokkaido is less densely populated than other areas in Japan. I can't imagine an 8.0 in Kansai or Kanto.

If anyone here is ever in Japan, around the Kansai area (Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka), I suggest visiting the Kobe Earthquake museum. The footage they have of the earthquake, and the aftermath, is amazing.
posted by SweetJesus at 2:21 PM on September 25, 2003


Seattle Post Intelligencer has a bit more detail.

Here's a fairly good map of Hokkaido, including the location of Tomokamai, where the fires seem to be.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:22 PM on September 25, 2003


It's on CNN, and there's an oil refinery on fire there.
posted by riffola at 2:22 PM on September 25, 2003


8.0 is bad, but thankfully Hokkaido is not as populated as, say, Honshu. Kobe was "only" 6.9, but the epicenter of the Kobe quake was directly beneath the harbour.

Still, this isn't a good thing.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:22 PM on September 25, 2003


As i recall from earth science, the scale (as predicted) 'cannot' have a magnitude 10 quake. The predicted energy release would be expected to be enough to tear the earth apart.
posted by MrLint at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2003


Here is the USGS page, 8.0 is massive and I used to live in Kushiro which is 65 miles from the epicenter... yikes
posted by zeoslap at 2:31 PM on September 25, 2003


Keep in mind that an earthquake's depth has a lot to do with how much damage it causes. Today's quake was 33km deep and Kobe was I think 10km deep. Shallower quake == more damage.
posted by ukamikanasi at 2:31 PM on September 25, 2003


okay so my buddy sent me the link, and i didn't click the main link, my bad, but hey i still lived there... i'm in shock, gimme a break... and now i live in San Francisco.....
posted by zeoslap at 2:32 PM on September 25, 2003


The BBC says it is only force 6.
posted by Mwongozi at 2:43 PM on September 25, 2003


Mwongozi: could be a different scale.
posted by riviera at 2:46 PM on September 25, 2003


They use a "force 1" - "force 7" scale in Japan.
posted by luriete at 2:49 PM on September 25, 2003


In Japan, don't they use the Lichter Scale?
posted by dhoyt at 2:52 PM on September 25, 2003


dhoyt, normally I'm a little more tolerant of those jokes, but... this is SO not the time.
posted by vorfeed at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2003


Tsunami - Where? California?

I was going to post something funny tonight too.

Not.
posted by troutfishing at 2:57 PM on September 25, 2003


In Japan, don't they use the Lichter Scale?

asshole.
posted by Ufez Jones at 3:02 PM on September 25, 2003


Seismograph output from California. Kyodo news story. NHK radio also said that the strength was 7.8 on the richter scale.
posted by lazy-ville at 3:08 PM on September 25, 2003


Looks as if the tsunami warning has been cancelled... what a relief for everyone in the Pacific.

And while I'm posting... I was far too polite, earlier. Please allow Ufez Jones' comment to stand in for my opinion, as well.
posted by vorfeed at 3:23 PM on September 25, 2003


Casualty reports are currently low. Let's hope that continues.
posted by alms at 3:24 PM on September 25, 2003


One memory I have oh Hokkaido is working in a bar which was really just a room in an office building type thing at around 4:00am and glancing up at the TV to see this cartoon picure of a big wave crashing down on a little stick man, apparently it was a tsunami alert but nobody else could care less but I had visions of Godzilla making himself known..
posted by zeoslap at 3:30 PM on September 25, 2003


Jesus, I don't know how much worse an 8 is, but that's a big friggin earthquake. I hope the damage is minimal, but I"m not holding out much hope. If we had an 8 here in the SF Bay Area, you would be seeing hundreds of thousands dead. Yikes.
posted by aacheson at 3:46 PM on September 25, 2003


Hokkaido is also the home of the Ainu, who were the subject of this post.
posted by homunculus at 3:49 PM on September 25, 2003


"Japan's Meteorological agency warned that waves of up to 3 feet were expected to hit coastal areas."

Holy fucking Jesus.


Lichter Scale - that is reverse. The Japanese palette is used to pronouncing R's, it's L's that give them trouble.
posted by Hackworth at 3:49 PM on September 25, 2003


In Japan, don't they use the Lichter Scale?
posted by dhoyt at 10:52 PM GMT on September 25

asshole.


Let me second that.

asshole.
posted by sic at 3:53 PM on September 25, 2003


The Japanese palette is used to pronouncing R's, it's L's that give them trouble.

...
posted by dhoyt at 3:55 PM on September 25, 2003


for what it's worth, it's both R's and L's. They have neither the R or L sound, but do have a sound that is somewhere in between, so that to English speaking ears, regardless of whichever they're trying to say, it sounds like the other.
posted by badstone at 4:01 PM on September 25, 2003


it's neither L's nor R's, but really just an elaborate ruse used to spark arguments.
posted by jimmy at 4:11 PM on September 25, 2003


OK, now that we know there was not serious damage caused or loss of life, can we call this discussion aralmist?
posted by alms at 4:11 PM on September 25, 2003


There's a text link on the msnbc front page (right near the top) to a live feed from NHK ... the footage shows some roads and buildings with long cracks in them and collapsed walls, but the damage looks pretty minimum if 8.0 is the strength. Streets appear deserted though. Oh crap; now it's Diet news, and footage of blokes in suits carrying large boxes of papers out of an office block.
posted by carter at 4:15 PM on September 25, 2003


As i recall from earth science, the scale (as predicted) 'cannot' have a magnitude 10 quake. The predicted energy release would be expected to be enough to tear the earth apart.

According to this page a magnitude 10 quake is equivalent to "San-Andreas type fault circling Earth", and 12.0 would be "Fault Earth in half through center". Since 1900 we've had a 9.5 (Chile) and 9.2 (Alaska).
posted by eddydamascene at 4:31 PM on September 25, 2003


Tsunami - Where? California?

I know we always got Tsunami warnings in Hawaii when there were earthquakes in Japan.
posted by Nothing at 4:32 PM on September 25, 2003


What, 3 feet waves is a tsunami? Isn't 3 feet like one metre, i.e. waves that would reach all the way to my belly-button?
posted by spazzm at 4:34 PM on September 25, 2003


Keep in mind that an earthquake's depth has a lot to do with how much damage it causes. Today's quake was 33km deep and Kobe was I think 10km deep. Shallower quake == more damage.

True ukamikanasi. What's more, the USGS preliminary report shows the epicenter to be 130 km SSW of the coastal town of Kushiro, which means the quake was out in the Pacific Ocean. Or "quakes" I should say, since there was a 7.0 magnitude aftershock an hour or so later, and a 4.9 after that.
posted by pitchblende at 4:48 PM on September 25, 2003


i don't think tsunami means "giant wave," rather just "wave caused by earthquake."
posted by luriete at 4:50 PM on September 25, 2003


they totally have R's, unless two years of Japanese in high school steered me wrong.
posted by Hackworth at 4:51 PM on September 25, 2003


although, i guess, they do not have r's outside of vowel-consonant combinations.
posted by Hackworth at 4:59 PM on September 25, 2003


" i don't think tsunami means "giant wave," rather just "wave caused by earthquake.""

But still, what's the point of issuing warnings for 1 metre waves? What's the point of even mentioning them?
posted by spazzm at 4:59 PM on September 25, 2003


what's the point of issuing warnings for 1 metre waves?

I could be wrong, but the stuff on the learning channel seems to indicate that tsunami "waves" are more like surges. Instead of being a 3 ft. wave that goes up on one side then goes back down on the other, it doesn't go down so fast. So tsunamis might mean an additional 3 ft of water that keeps coming. That could at least cause a bit of a pain in harbors.
posted by dness2 at 5:06 PM on September 25, 2003


The sound, when I learned to pronounce it, struck me as closer to an english D sound than anything. A little flap of the tongue against that ridge of the hard palette.

It was an asshole thing to say, but on the other hand I laughed.
posted by cortex at 5:09 PM on September 25, 2003


they totally have R's, unless two years of Japanese in high school steered me wrong.

Japanese has a consonant sound that's represented in Roman letters with an "r", true. So do Spanish and French, but the Spanish "r" (trilled at the front of the mouth) and the French "r" (in the back of the throat) are completely different sounds, and neither one sounds like the American English "r", which is produced, pirate-like, at the side of the mouth. The Japanese sound is produced with the tongue on the palate (I've been instructed that it goes the same place it would go for the "tt" in "butter"), and it sounds a bit like an English "l". Similarly, to Japanese speakers, both the English "l" and "r" sound a bit like the Japanese "r".
posted by mr_roboto at 5:15 PM on September 25, 2003


A more meaningful measurement to humans is the Mercalli Scale.

This only appears to be a VI or VII

VI
Moderate
Objects Fall
Felt by all. Many frightened and run outdoors. Persons walk unsteadily. Windows, dishes, glassware broken. Knickknacks, books, etc., off shelves. Pictures off walls. Furniture moved or overturned. Weak plaster and masonry D cracked. Small bells ring (church, school). Trees, bushes shaken (visibly, or heard to rustle).

VII.
Strong
Nonstructural Damage
Difficult to stand. Noticed by drivers of motor cars. Hanging objects quiver. Furniture broken. Damage to masonry D, including cracks. Weak chimneys broken at roof line. Fall of plaster, loose bricks, stones, tiles, cornices (also unbraced parapets and architectural ornaments). Some cracks in masonry C. Waves on ponds; water turbid with mud. Small slides and caving in along sand or gravel banks. Large bells ring. Concrete irrigation ditches damaged.
posted by cinderful at 5:22 PM on September 25, 2003


Hm. I should have known better than to ask a serious question in MF. Here's some info:
http://www.geophys.washington.edu/tsunami/general/physics/characteristics.html

Apparently, tsunami does not only mean earthquake-generated waves, and the reason they're dangerous is not the height but their speed - a tsunami can reach 700 km/h.

And "tsunami" means "harbour wave".

Thanks, google.
posted by spazzm at 5:22 PM on September 25, 2003


I know we always got Tsunami warnings in Hawaii when there were earthquakes in Japan.

There was one issued for this quake, canceled at 12:13 p.m. HST. I work at about sea level (near the airport and its famed reef runway) so even a "small" wave would have been a big problem. The weird thing is, I went to meet some friends for lunch, and they were all, "What earthquake?"

Dammit, isn't everyone online every waking hour of the day?
posted by pzarquon at 5:24 PM on September 25, 2003


one meter waves

Normal waves are a displacement caused by wind, and also energy from currents and tides I suppose. A tsunami, I think, causes a one meter wave by pushing an entire column of water up one meter like a piston starting from the sea floor. The wave travels very fast.

When waves reach shallow water, they break. Why? Energy is conserved. The tsunami, having enormous mass and great velocity, has incredible energy.

In shallow water, there is less mass of water affected by the wave energy. So, up is the only way for the energy to go and the wave gets higher. Eventually gravity is too much and the water topples over itself and the wave breaks.

When the tsunami reaches the slopes of the continental shelf, that is shallow water....when it reaches shore it can be dozens of meters high.Sometimes the trough of the tsunami reaches shore first. In that case, the ocean waters recede suddenly. Run for your life.
posted by crunchburger at 5:28 PM on September 25, 2003


I posted a picture of the TV tsunami warning map for the truly curious. We certainly didn't feel anything this far away.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:31 PM on September 25, 2003


Tsunami destruction: photo and thumbnails for the curious.
posted by swerve at 6:47 PM on September 25, 2003


you guys may not want to see lost in translation. It has a joke about the r-l pronunciation issue that may be a little harsh for your delicate sensibilities.
posted by chrisege at 6:49 PM on September 25, 2003



posted by goethean at 7:19 PM on September 25, 2003


for what it's worth, it's both R's and L's. They have neither the R or L sound, but do have a sound that is somewhere in between, so that to English speaking ears, regardless of whichever they're trying to say, it sounds like the other.

ComparativePhonologyFilter! I wonder if there are any Japan Bloggers on the scene with firsthand info?
posted by hairyeyeball at 7:36 PM on September 25, 2003


JapanBlogger here. I slept through the damn quake as I am in Tokyo.

Yes, Japanese has a set of sounds that is in between L and R. That's why they often cannot distinguish between them.
posted by gen at 7:52 PM on September 25, 2003


I slept through the damn quake

Lucky you!

Nippon Goro Goro is on the newsdesk tonight-today, by the way.
posted by hairyeyeball at 8:24 PM on September 25, 2003


What, 3 feet waves is a tsunami? Isn't 3 feet like one metre, i.e. waves that would reach all the way to my belly-button?

NHK reported that many containers, pallets and at least ten cars/light trucks have been dragged into the drink.

The highest tsunami recorded for this earthquake so far is 1m30cm. It may not seem like much but, as was correctly mentioned in the links provided above, tsunami can reach speeds of up to 194m/s - more than enough to knock things down/around and drag them back into the ocean.

No lives were lost because the people at the harbor ran for higher ground immediately after the first tremor and the people in boats at the time stayed away from the coast until the tsunami subsided.

Trivia: If you look at the map kindly provided by planetkyoto, you can see that the epicenter is located near a curved coastline. The energy from the waves will bounce from one side of the curve to the other side of the curve and its energy will be trapped there so the tsunami can continue for hours.

More Trivia: You can see that the coastline on the opposite side of peninsula (i.e. the side not facing the epicenter) are also outlined in red. Although the opposite side may seem safe at first glance, the energy swings around peninsula so in many cases the destruction/loss caused by tsunami is greater on the seemingly 'safe' side.

There are currently no reports of lives lost as a direct result of the quake/tsunami but NHK did report the unfortunate death of a man who was struck by a passing car while he was cleaning up broken glass. May he rest in peace and his family find consolation in their time of loss.

It has a joke about the r-l pronunciation issue that may be a little harsh for your delicate sensibilities.

Perhaps it was not a question of the joke itself but of the TPO?

BTW, related MetaTalk thread here.
posted by cup at 8:27 PM on September 25, 2003


Incredible... weird feeling that I was in Hokkaido less than a month ago on vacation. After experiencing the '89 quake in SF, I can't imagine what an 8.0 would be like.
posted by swank6 at 9:19 PM on September 25, 2003


Well, I'm glad that it sounds like there wasn't nearly as much mayhem and destruction as I had originally feared. Plus, the comments about quake scales, tsunami science, and japanese pronunciation were all pretty interesting.

I guess each and every one of us here learned something very important today. *hugs dhoyt, wipes away a single manly tear*
posted by majcher at 10:55 PM on September 25, 2003


This post made me think about my memories of living near the epicenters of both the '71 San Fernando and '94 Northridge quakes, and plan to update the Earthquake Kit I put in a plastic trash can in the back yard five years ago... then I realized that back yard was at a previous address...
(I hope whoever enjoyed the canned tuna and beans)
posted by wendell at 11:24 PM on September 25, 2003


Wendell, I have bottled water and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and even D cells left over from Hurricane Isabel and I'll be happy to share. But be warned - if an earthquake comes, I'm gonna shit.
posted by crunchburger at 11:30 PM on September 25, 2003


Tsunami Warning from a sign in Kamakura (self link)
posted by quibx at 5:49 AM on September 26, 2003


Tsunami Warning from a sign in Kamakura (self link)

Whoa, creepy. I spent all of five minutes on the beach at Kamakura, but I totally remember that very sign. Little ol' landlocked me was pretty impressed by it.
posted by vorfeed at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2003


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