Guest Author - Caroline Chen-Whatley
On March 11th 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck just northeast the coast of Honshu, Japan. Japan is home of several styles of Martial Arts, including one of the first to break into the Western world, Karate. This earthquake is devastating in the trifecta of impact it has had. If you or anyone you know is able to, please consider helping out by donating to reputable organizations such as American Red Cross.
The trifecta of impact includes the earthquake itself, the resulting tsunami, and the nuclear threat that has ensued.
No quake in the 1900's or 2000's has ever been this big near Japan. In fact, according to US Geological Survey, the nearest comparison to this quake is recorded on July 13, 869. The magnitude 9 earthquake was preceded for two days with large foreshocks already at 6 and 7 magnitudes. After the large quake, there have been many aftershocks which has rocked throughout Japan.
The earthquake that hit New Zealand only a month prior and wiped out one of the busiest sections of the city had only measured a magnitude of 6.3. The largest earthquake in California was in 1906 and that measured 7.9. Very few earthquakes ever reach as high as the Japan quake on the Richter scale, averaging maybe 1 every 20 years.
The devastation from the earthquake alone is enough to level most cities and cause wide-spread crisis. But that was not the end of Japan's issues…
The word tsunami actually comes from a Japanese word meaning "harbor wave." Tsunamis produce large waves of water that move inland. As the waves move closer to the shore, the shallow waters slows down the wave, causing it to bunch up and increase in height. Eventually this tall column of water will come crashing down on anything in front of it. The ensuing surge of water floods the lands causing further damage.
The tsunami from the Japan quake reached as far as South America and Africa on either side of Japan. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tsunami waves were reported to be as high as three stories in some parts of Japan.
But wait, that's not all…
As with many modern countries, Japan has struggled this last decade keeping up with the increasing demands for energy. The quake and tsunami impacted the three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The rooms where the fuel rods are kept had been damaged, and thus difficult to maintain in the proper, stable conditions. The lack of proper cooling has caused a partial meltdown of the reactors. This is the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
The fallout from this nuclear leak could impact neighboring countries but so far has not been seen or impacted more distant countries such as the US or Canada. Still, there is much that needs to be done and many weeks of work ahead to get the situation at the reactors stable.
Once the nuclear threat is abated, there's still all the aftermath for the country to deal with. As with other recent crisis such as Katrina and Haiti, there will be years before the areas return to normalcy. Even then, the scar of these events will remain.
So, if you have the opportunity, please consider donating any help you can to relief efforts for Japan.