March 11th, 2011
Econintersect: An earthquake registering 8.9 on the Richter scale inflicted massive damage on Japan Friday (March 11). Tsunami waves up to 23-30 feet high destroyed large areas in the northeastern coastal region of the country. It is feared that ultimately the death toll will reach into the hundreds.
The waves, subdued to six feet, have reached Hawaii and small waves are expected on the west coast of the U.S. Tsunami warnings were issued over wide areas including most of southeast Asia, China, Korea, Russia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and the western coasts of North and South America. According to Reuters, Tsunami warnings have been removed for North America, Australia and New Zealand as of 9:07 am EST. Follow up:
This quake ranks as the seventh largest in history according to the U.S. Geological Survey. As a point of reference, the quake that destroyed San Fransisco and killed 3,000 in 1906 was 7.8 on the Richter scale and ranks way down on the world history list.
The USGS website lists the following as stronger earthquakes, with history going back hundreds of years:
The ten largest earthquakes have all occurred around the Pacific "Rim of Fire" that extends along the western coasts of the Americas, across the Aleutian Island chain and down the east coast of Asia. On the newly revised list, number eleven is an 8.7 quake in Lisbon, Portugal in November, 1755.
The Richter scale is a base 10 logrithmic scale. That means that 8.8 has seismic energy strength 10 times greater than 7.8. Seismic energy is measured by determining the horizontal ground movement experienced in the quake, also referred to as "shaking." At 8.9, the Japan quake was more than ten times as powerful as the 1906 San Fransisco event.
A large collection of videos and photographs accompanies the stories at MSNBC.com and CNN.com. The Daily Beast has an excellent collection of videos.