On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan,
unleashing a savage tsunami.
The effects of the great earthquake were felt around the world, from Norway's fjords to
Antarctica's ice sheet. Tsunami debris continues to wash up on North American beaches
two years later.
• Started on a Friday at 2:46 p.m. local time.
• It was centered on the seafloor 45 miles (72
kilometers) east of Tohoku, at a depth of 20
miles (32 km) below the surface.
• The shaking lasted about six minutes
The biggest one was a 7.2 MW.
On 9 March, about 40 kilometres, from the main
Aftershocks A 7.7 happened 30 minutes following the first quake
Flooding, landslides, fires, building and infrastructure
damage, nuclear incidents including radiation releases
• The Earthquake started a tsunami warning for Japan's Pacific
coast and other countries, including New
Zealand, Australia, Russia, Guam, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua
New Guinea, Nauru, Hawaii, Northern Mariana Islands (USA)
• It warned that the wave could be as much as 10 meters high.
• A 0.5 meter high wave hit Japan's northern coast.
• In some areas the waves reached 10 km inland.
• At 9:28 p.m (HST) the National Weather Service issued a tsunami
warning until 7 a.m. for all of Hawaii.
• A wave two meters high reached California
• The Fukushima nuclear disaster began on March 11 2011,
just hours after the initial wave.
The tsunami caused a cooling system failure at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear
Power Plant, which resulted in a level 7 nuclear meltdown and release of
radioactive materials. About 300 tons of radioactive water continues to leak
from the plant every day into the Pacific Ocean, affecting fish and other marine
• East of Japan, the Pacific plate dives beneath
the overriding Eurasian plate. The temblor
completely released centuries of built up
stress between the two tectonic plate.
In a subduction zone, one plate
slides beneath another into the
mantle, the hotter layer beneath
The great plates stick and slip,
• The earthquake shifted Earth on its axis of rotation by
redistributing mass, like putting a dent in a wobbling
top. The temblor also shortened the length of day by
about a microsecond.
• More than 1,000 aftershocks have hit Japan since the
earthquake, the largest a magnitude 7.9.
• About 250 miles (400 km) of Japan's northern Honshu
coastline dropped by 2 feet (0.6 meters).
• The jolt moved Japan's main island of Honshu eastward
by 8 feet (2.4 meters).
• The Pacific Plate slid westward near the epicenter by
79 feet (24 m).
• In Antarctica, the seismic waves from the earthquake
sped up the Whillans Ice Stream, jolting it by about 1.5
feet (0.5 meters).
• The tsunami broke icebergs off the Sulzberger Ice Shelf in
• As the tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean, a 5-foot high
(1.5 m) high wave killed more than 110,000 nesting
seabirds at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
• In Norway, water in some fjords pointing northeast
toward Japan (up and over the pole) sloshed back and
forth as seismic waves from the earthquake raced
• The earthquake produced a low-frequency rumble called
infrasound, which traveled into space and was detected
by the Goce satellite.