Movie:Overview tsunami Japan


Information Page: Overview tsunami Japan

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overview tsunami Japan

Key Attributes

Domain: terrestrial, coastal
Keywords: tsunami
Keywords: earthquake
Model name: Animation model name
Where: Sendai, Japan
When: hours

Short Description

Grade level: High (9-12), Under graduate (13-16), Graduate / Professional

Statement: debris engulfs inland Japan

Abstract: Overview of the tsunami affecting the bay and city of Sendai, Japan. There is footage of ships being rolled over, cars being picked up and flooding of the nearby farmfield and city.

It is estimated that the tsunami was about 3-4 m high when it hit the shoreline, and it traveled upto 10 km inland.

This tsunami was generated by a 8.9 magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Ocean on March 11th, 2011. The epicenter of the earthquake was 130km offshore of Sendai.


Tsunami is a Japanese word, meaning 'harbor wave'. Japan is affected by tsunamis relatively frequently, because it is located near a plate subduction zone. The Pacific Plate subducts beneath Japan at a very high rate of ~8cm/year. The process of thrust faulting at these plate boundaries is associated with earthquakes and subsea oceanfloor displacements that cause tsunamis.

A magnitude 8.9/9.0 earthquake happened on March 11th, 2011. This was the 5th largest earthquake worldwide since 1900. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake occurred at a depth of 24.4 kilometers beneath the seafloor. The March 11 earthquake was preceded by a series of large foreshocks on March 9, including an M7.2 event, and many aftershocks keep rattling Japan in the days after.

A tsunami can travel at a speed of 800km/hr in the deep ocean, but with very long wave length (about 15 min). When such a wave reaches shallower water nearshore, the wave length decreases, because its speed decreases. Then the backend of the wave starts catching up with the front end and and its amplitude starts to increase dramatically. The observations for the March 11th tsunami wave height when hitting the shoreline near Sendai are about 4m. At some localities where the water was focused due to the funneling action of the bays the wave reached a height of 7.3 m. It hit the shore about 1 hour and 10 minutes after the earthquake shock was recorded.

The tsunami traveled rapidly through the Pacific Ocean and reached Hawai after 8 hours and California after 11 hours, generating waves as high as 1.5-2 m there.

Links Sendai earthquake and tsunami


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