Sometimes we don't know how important some research could be
May 15, 2012 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Tipped off by an ancient poem, and supported by both historical and paleontological/geological research, Koji Minoura et al. found evidence of historic and prehistoric tsunamis[PDF] devastating north-east Japan just as that of March 2011 did -- and he had been saying for years that it could happen again. (via PRI's The World's science podcast)
posted by jb (13 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Tidal waves are not uncommon in Japan. We get the word "tsunami" from there for a reason.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:42 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I remember seeing this dude on a PBS show..."to late" he said. This story is old but cool, I love this kind of scholastic work.
posted by clavdivs at 7:45 AM on May 15, 2012

Yeah, but the tsunami that struck northeastern Japan last year was unprecedented (at least in recorded history) in terms of its height, the area it covered, and in terms of its sheer destructive power.

For completely understandable reasons, people ignored what their ancestors had warned them, and built communities in places that were likely to be swept away in another calamity.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:47 AM on May 15, 2012

Interesting. I just read "Fukushima in review: A complex disaster, a disastrous response" (Sage Pub link, you can get full text by searching in Google Scholar) and this article is referred to in it. Sobering, solid research. Thanks for posting this.
posted by cog_nate at 7:53 AM on May 15, 2012

Such is the curse of Cassandra.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:56 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Isn't this a bit like someone claiming for years that California is going to experience a big earthquake? I shit?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:58 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

What I heard on the radio was that the area affected was much larger than most tsunamis, but that (what I am calling) super-tsunamis have happened in this region every 1000 years or so. The last was 869 (not quite pre-historic, though very early for recorded history in Japan), just over 1100 years ago. It's not unreasonable to have build towns, etc - but when planning the safety systems of a nuclear power-plant, maybe you need to think about once in a 1000-year events.
posted by jb at 8:00 AM on May 15, 2012

Unfortunately, people often disregard historical precedent for a variety of economic, logistic, or traditional reasons. I can't imagine excavating and finding ocean sediment like that, nor evidence of such a disaster.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:01 AM on May 15, 2012

I read the first phrase of this post as "tipped off by ancient porn"...
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:10 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would this be like ignoring historical precedent of introducing non-native species to solve problems caused by human technology?
posted by maniabug at 8:55 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since the tsunami, people have paid attention to Minoura. Bloggers have picked up on his work. The Japanese news media have covered it extensively. Minoura now has the attention of the government and is regularly invited to speak before important groups.

“Yes,” Minoura says, acknowledging the attention. “But it’s too late.”

posted by salvia at 9:31 AM on May 15, 2012

Or 1000 years too early!
posted by RobotHero at 10:17 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't they say a picture is worth a thousand words?

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) did this woodcut around 1831. It's titled The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. This is not the Hokusai print most Americans are familiar with, but I would imagine the Japanese are, as the original is in the Hakone Museum.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:38 PM on May 15, 2012

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