Japan Tsunami

The 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami, with a magnitude of 8.9, made it the largest earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history and the sixth largest in the world since records began. Google News, Yahoo, Blog Runner, and TechMeme have the latest. Ustream is carrying live TV feeds from the Japan public broadcaster, NHK. Al Jazeera, The BBC, CNN and NPR have live blogs. C/Net’s has links for finding family and friends. Here’s a photo gallery, diagram and an OpenStreetMap of Japan.

An explosion at a nuclear power station Saturday destroyed a building housing the reactor, amid fears of a meltdown.

Friday’s quake occurred 80 miles offshore and 15.2 miles underwater in a subduction zone called the Japan Trench, part of that plate boundary. For more than a minute, the crust ruptured, stretching 180 miles along earth’s crust and 50 feet across.

One of the worst-hit areas was the port city of Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture, where police said between 200 and 300 bodies were found in one ward alone. The town of Rikuzentakada, in Iwate prefecture, the second largest prefecture of Japan, seemed mostly under water, with barely a trace of any buildings.

In central Tokyo, office workers spent the night in their offices because the elevators stopped working. Population of the Greater Tokyo Area is approximately 35 million, making it the world’s most populous metropolitan area.

Many of Japan’s railroads and Transportation systems came to a halt. Japan Railways said it could not trace four trains along the north-eastern coast, and a ship carrying 100 people was also reported missing. A dam burst in north-eastern Fukushima prefecture, sweeping away homes, Japan has 47 prefectures, subnational jurisdictions.

A megathrust earthquake, the Tokyo earthquake created tsunami waves of up to 10 metres (33 ft). According to WikiPedia, the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake was the 2nd most powerful recorded since 1900.

Japan has spent billions of dollars developing the most advanced technology against earthquakes and tsunamis, reports the NY Times. While Japan is well-prepared for most quakes, communications were disrupted, and not just because of infrastructure damage. Landline phones are doing better than wireless phones, reports ComputerWorld.

Early reports didn’t indicate that wireless communications were completely crippled, although Japan’s three largest mobile phone operators told Bloomberg that their services were disrupted across many regions in Japan.

Those three carriers — NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank were said to be in either poor or bad condition after the major quake, but operational. Those three carriers and a fourth, NTT East, set up special disaster bulletin boards to post text messages for others to read on the Web. NTT East allowed messages of up to 100 Japanese characters to be posted on a special Web site from areas within part of Japan though they can be read anywhere on the Web. Focus on Travel News (twitter feed) said the messages could be seen by anyone who entered the writer’s phone number.

Ushahidi is a non-profit software company that develops free and open source mapping software. It uses the concept of crowdsourcing. The Christchurch Recovery Map website was launched less than 24 hours after the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. The site, www.eq.org.nz has “no official organisation” behind it, says one of the prime movers, Nat Torkington. It pulls feeds and photos from Twitter and Geonet, reports ReadWriteWeb.

The Japanese are using social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Mixi as cell phone networks are jammed.

Google launched its Person Finder on Friday morning, in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Disaster alert phone apps include Mappity Quakes, QuakeWatch, Earthquake and QuakeZones Pro. They offer iPhone users a real-time database of earthquakes around the world, organized on an interactive world map and within a list that can be sorted by time, magnitude and even by distance from the user’s current location. iSeismometer turns your iPhone into an amateur seismometer. The USGS has an Earthquake Notification Service.

The Quake produced a flood of Tweets. As of about 11:30 a.m. PST, #PrayforJapan, #tsunami, #japon and Text REDCROSS were the top four trending topics worldwide on Twitter, along with an Oregon-oriented ORTsunami, ARRL Emergency and Oregonian stories.

Social media and the web have become the go-to for real-time information, says Mashable. Facebook sites that cover the quake include JapanEarthquake, Solidaritytsunamimarch2011, and the The US Weather Service.

Flickr photos and You Tube videos and Citizen Tube videos have recent photos and video clips.

About 20 submarine cables land in Japan, Some submarine cables have been cut restricting links to the outside. The Pacific Crossing site currently displays a message that reads: “The Japanese cable landing station in Ajigaura has been evacuated due to the tsunami.”

The Japan-US cable terminates in San Luis Obispo, at the Point Arena cable station (pdf). Asia Pacific Cable Network 2, owned by a consortium of 14 telecom operators led by AT&T, was apparently damaged near Kita on the eastern coast of Japan.

The VSNL Transpacific cable (Tata TGN segment 1) is a 7.6 terabit cable that goes from Nedonna Beach Oregon to Emi, Japan with a second branch that terminates in Toyohashi, Japan.

Japan’s Kobe Port was the country’s busiest port until the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Kobe has since dropped to the fourth in Japan and forty-fifth busiest container port worldwide (as of 2008).

Jaxa’s KIZUNA internet satellite delivers 155Mbps to household 45-centimetre satellite antennas (the same size as existing Communications Satellite antennas) and 1.2 Gbps for offices with five-meter antennas.

It uses Ka-Band signals and is part of Japan’s i-Space program, operated by JAXA (Japan’s NASA).

Jaxa’s QZSS GPS satellites fly in an orbit passing through the near zenith over Japan.

In order to have at least one quasi-zenith satellite always flying near Japan’s zenith, at least three satellites are necessary. They are compatible with the currently operated GPS as well as the new GPS, which is under development in the U.S.

The US DOD’s Operationally Responsive Space program might be embraced by the world community, if they could launch TACSAT-4 within 48 hours, for service in Japan. But getting a Minotaur rocket ready may take another 2 months to respond.

The deadliest known earthquake in history occurred in 1556 in Shaanxi, China, with an estimated death toll of 830,000, though figures from this time period may not be reliable.

The earthquake and tsunamis that hit Japan could have a significant impact on the tech industry with much of the semiconductor manufacturing in Japan and other Asian countries.

The above map shows the location of the earthquake’s epicenter and Japan’s major fabs.

Japan’s Earthquake Early Warning system provides advance announcement of the seismic intensity and expected arrival time. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), links more than a thousand seismographs across Japan to a central computer in its Earthquake Early Warning system that attempts to detect the weak but fast-moving primary waves and use them to triangulate the location of the quake and estimate its size.

The National Data Buoy Center maintains a network of data collecting buoys and coastal stations. They provide hourly observations from a network of about 90 buoys (via Iridium satellites) and 60 Coastal Marine Automated Network (C-MAN) stations.

The Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) program (above) is an effort to maintain and improve the capability for the early detection and real-time reporting of tsunamis in the open ocean.

A Benthos ATM-880 acoustic modem is used to transmit data between the tsunameter mounted on the ocean floor and the surface buoy. The DART II surface buoy, relays information and commands from the tsunameter to the Iridium satellite network. The computer and Iridium transceiver are powered by lithium batteries that will power the buoy for at least two years (pdf).

Live Seismographs

  • Alaska Tsunami Ctr & Links
  • Hawaii Tsunami Center & Museum
  • Japan Meteorological Agency
  • Google Mapvisage
  • PMEL Tsunami Research Program
  • USGS Earthquake Ctr
  • Oregon Tsunami Clearinghouse
  • Oregon Tsunami Evacuation Zones
  • Oregon Emergency Management
  • Oregon ARES/RACES
  • U/W’s Live Seismographs
  • Cascades Volcano Observatory
  • Live MT Saint Helens Seismograph
  • U/W’s Recent Quakes
  • Live California Seismographs
  • World Quake Map
  • Calif/Nev Life Seismo
  • N. Calif Recorders
  • US Array
  • Northwest Ocean Observatory
  • Savage Earth
  • Discovery Planet
  • Virtual Earth Quake
  • International Seismological Centre
  • USGS Global Quake Map
  • OpenStreetMap: Sendai Quake
  • Portland Open Street Map
  • Tsunami Hazard Ctr
  • Tsunami Mitigation
  • Google Quake News
  • Earthquakes create various types of waves with different velocities.

    P-waves, for primary waves, are produced by earthquakes and recorded by seismometers. They are the highest velocity and therefore the first to be recorded. The S-wave, or secondary wave, is perpendicular to the direction of wave propagation, like waves in a rope, as opposed to P-waves like those moving through a slinky.

    Each tsunameter has a pressure recorder anchored to the seafloor. The recorder’s readings were relayed to NOAA’s network of geostationary weather satellites (GOES) in the first DART models. The real-time satellite data are analyzed at NOAA’s tsunami warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska, which issues alerts to emergency officials.

    The Coast Guard uses dozens of buoys bobbing off U.S. coastlines from Maine to Alaska, which also extend the reach of a Automated Identification System. It monitors large vessels heading in and out of ports, extending the network and relaying information from hundreds of miles off shore.

    An international warning system was started in 1965, the year after tsunamis associated with a magnitude-9.2 temblor struck Alaska and the West Coast in 1964. It is administered by NOAA. The PMEL Tsunami Research Program seeks to mitigate tsunami hazards to Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

    Member states include all the major Pacific rim nations in North America, Asia and South America, was well as the Pacific islands, Australia, New Zealand, France, which has sovereignty over some Pacific islands, and Russia. The Indian Ocean has rarely experienced tsunamis and does not have an active warning system.

    The Cascadia Subduction Zone stretches from northern Vancouver Island to northern California. It is a very long sloping fault that separates the Juan de Fuca plate and North America plates.

    Geologist Brian Atwater (above) shows a cross-section of cedar killed by the last Cascadia earthquake in January, 1700. Atwater discovered proof that a recurrent massive subduction zone tsunami hits the West Coast every 300-450 years.

    According to calculations by Chris Goldfinger, a geologist at Oregon State University, there’s an 80 percent chance that the portion of the fault off southern Oregon and Northern California would break in the next 50 years.

    John Delaney leads the team at the University of Washington on the innovative, cabled network of instruments off the West Coast.

    The Ocean Observatories program began in earnest in Feb, 2011, the installation of undersea power and data cables at Pacific City, Oregon, for the cabled component of the OOI.

    Three Implementing Organizations are responsible for construction and development of the overall program. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and its partners, Oregon State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography are responsible for the coastal and global moorings and their autonomous vehicles.

    The University of Washington is responsible for cabled seafloor systems and moorings on the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. The University of California, San Diego, is implementing the cyberinfrastructure component.

    The $400-million NSF project will use Amazon Web Services (pdf).

    A 2007 study in Oregon found that roughly 1,000 schools, or 46% of the state’s total, had a high or very-high risk of failure during a big earthquake. The US Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program has mapped the west coast of the United States.

    The Cascadia Subduction Zone Quake will generate two Tsunami waves, one propagating towards the coast, and the other towards the deep ocean and Hawaii. It will take only minutes to reach the coasts of Oregon, Washington, southern British Columbia, and northern California with wave heights reaching close to 12m (~36ft) in some scenarios.

    Ditch the Satellite Truck says Livestream. Livestream has a Verizon 4G and WiFi Connection Device that slips on a video camera to encode video direct to broadband

    Livestream says a device from Teradek called the Cube costs $1,500 and can deliver speeds of 8Mbps on the Verizon 4G LTE network. Cube’s WiFi range is approximately 300 feet. Battery operated WiMAX wireless routers can complete the package. CradlePoint mobile routers support LTE and WiMAX.

    After an earthquake, Inmarsat terminals can provide integrated WiFi with 400kbps satellite links. Satellite phones from Iridium and Inmarsat are also available although their data speeds are in the range of 2.4 Kbps. Newer TerreStar and Lightsquared satphones can fit in a pocket. The TerreStar Genus phone (left) is expected to support data speeds 10x faster (but still slow).

    The Genus phone costs $799 and includes WiFi, while satellite service costs another $24.99 per month, plus an additional 65 cents per voice minute, 40 cents per text message, or $5 per megabyte of data. It’s availability is uncertain, since TerreStar declared bankruptcy.

    You’d think FEMA, Ready.gov and DisasterAssitance.gov or my state’s Oregon Emergency Management would have a dozen or more Inmarsat or Motosat trucks ready to roll with WiFi-enabled devices. But you’d be wrong.

    Gizmodo lists additional emergency apps such as Pocket First Aid and CPR, First Responder Info, Disaster Readyness, and Emergency Radio.

    Cell companies will likely set up a Cell on Wheels (COW) or Cell On Light Trucks (COLTs) in 48 to 72 hours. A Cell on an Electric Vehicle (CEV) might be enabled by a Ford Electric truck or Nissan Leaf (with a 24 kW/hr battery). A Brammo Electric Motorcycle might even tow a small VSAT/WiMAX trailer. Solar electric charge stations provide juice. Lumbering FEMA trucks may never get out of the garage.

    Internet satellite terminals cost about $2000. Add a half a dozen smartphones (with apps) and laptops. Put it in a bike trailer. A mobilized, satellite-connected, broadband network serving a dozen people costs the same as one narrowband $5000, P-25 push-to-talk radio. It can be mobilized anywhere – regardless of terrestrial infrastructure destruction. Broadband is cheap and available. It works. Right now.

    Two to four 260 Watt flexible, thin-film photovoltaics from Solopower should generate 10-25 amps at 12 volts and can be rolled up and stashed in a trunk. Add a couple of large, deep cycle AGM batteries or Bramo’s 6.0 kWh battery and you’re good to go.

    Grid power and gasoline not required.

    Maybe joining the CitizenCorp.gov wouldn’t be a bad idea. Portland’s Humaninet, has a Maps 2.0 team using Google Maps tools. They tested it in Thailand (pdf) and other places using highly qualified volunteers. Groups like Mercy Corps are among the first to move.

    OpenStreetMap has good map data in this region, and the Humanitarian OSM Team is on hand to help. CrisisWiki is an editable directory of resources related to disasters and crises around the world.

    Alex Williams lists a number of tools for data journalism that can help anyone interested making sense of data, and sharing it publicly.

    • Factual provides simple APIs for building Web and mobile apps. It provides data on local geographies. The datasets include businesses and points of interest (parks, airports, theaters, tourist attractions, etc.), and attributes include: name, address, phone, category and latitude/longitude.”
    • Socrata provides ways for federal, state and local governments to make data available online in a simple-to-use way.
    • Google Fusion Tables, a Google Labs project, lets you host, manage, collaborate on, visualize, and publish data tables.
    • Yahoo! Pipes can make anyone a data plumber. You can aggregate feeds and mashup information from around the Web.
    • OpenHeatMap is another example of how to turn data into maps.
    • WikiMapia and Portland Open Street Map is a good place to start

    Surviving after the earthquake – that’s the trick. James Roddey, a geologist known as Oregon’s “Prophet of Doom,” explains it all. The coming Cascadia event could tip the scales at a magnitude above 9.5 – larger than all 20th-century earthquakes combined, according to Roddey, and last up to five minutes.

    Here’s the scientific consensus on what will happen in Portland:

    Several of the 10 bridges across the Willamette River will collapse—the Steel Bridge, Sellwood Bridge and Marquam Bridge, most likely—and the rest will be impassible. Big Pink and other office towers will sway so violently their granite and glass façades will shear off and crash into the street, piling rubble up 4 feet deep. The Multnomah County Courthouse will tumble. Underground gas, power and water lines will be pulverized. The soil beneath the Portland International Airport will temporarily turn to soup.


    The Red Cross has Earth Quake Kits. The professionals at Humaninet have some tips that could save lives.

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