Japan Earthquake Effects Spread

Seismologists have determined that the earthquake that struck Japan on March 11 has moved the island by 8 feet and caused the axis of the earth to shift. “Normally, tectonic plates and the land masses above them move slowly over the course of time,” says Dimond geology teacher Erik Peterson. “However, the tectonic plates in the Japan earthquake moved very quickly, which caused Japan to shift eight feet.” The earthquake was caused by the Pacific tectonic plate subducting, or going under, the Eurasian plate which Japan sits on. This built up pressure over a period of time until the Eurasian plate was forced upward, resulting in the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan. Since Japan sits on top of the Eurasian plate, the island moved with it up to 8 feet. Another reported geological effect of the quake was that the axis of the Earth had actually moved. It is possible because of how powerful the earthquake was,” Peterson notes. “But it probably isn’t as drastic as the media made it out to be.” Reports from the U.S Geological Survey indicate that the axis only moved about four inches. The catastrophic effects of the earthquake and tsunami have caused Alaskans to wonder about a potential quake closer to home. Both Alaska and Japan are located along the Pacific tectonic plate and are in the area known as the Ring of Fire because of the large amount of seismic activity. When asked about a potential earthquake here, Peterson replied, “Alaska is due for another large earthquake. It won’t be another 9.2, the size of the 1964 earthquake, but it will be in the 6 or 7 magnitude range.” Some rumors are that the Japan quake could have caused plate movement that will soon result in a possible Alaska quake. “Anytime you have an earthquake, it’s releasing pressure,” Peterson says. “If the Japan quake was going to affect Alaska, it would have done it when the 9.0 hit, since we’re along the same tectonic plate.” The quickest after-effect of the earthquake was the tsunami. Waves reached across the Pacific Ocean and caused tsunami warnings for Alaska, the U.S west coast and Hawaii. Many were anxious about a tsunami hitting Anchorage. However, due to its location at the head of Cook Inlet, it is unlikely that a tsunami would be able to travel all the way to Alaska’s largest city. Even during the 1964 earthquake, the tsunami that swept across coastal towns such as Valdez and Seward did not reach Anchorage. The worst was in Japan, where entire towns were washed away. There are still many people missing who are suspected of having been washed away by the giant waves. The tsunami also caused damage to nuclear plants in Japan, which puts then in danger of meltdowns and the spread of radiation. Even now strong aftershocks from the quake rock Japan, making it difficult to search for survivors and restore power.