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The March 11, 2011 Tsunami

Links to web sites, for more information on the Tohoku (Honshu) tsunami

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The March 11, 2011 Tsunami

On March 11, 2011 a magnitude 9.0 “great” earthquake off the east coast of Japan generated a Pacific-wide tsunami that was catastrophic along the coast of northeastern Honshu, Japan. The first tsunami wave arrived at the Honshu coastline nearest to the epicenter within about 15 minutes of the earthquake with subsequent waves arriving in the hours that followed, in places 10m or more in height. Entire communities were flooded by the waves and substantial infrastructure was damaged. The tsunami also propagated across the Pacific Ocean and was measured both by oceanic buoys and by coastal tide stations. As noted by the International Tsunami Information Center (

  • Hawaii ordered statewide evacuations as waves of over 2m passed the islands;
  • the west coast of the United States experienced waves of over 4m (trough to peak) at Crescent City; and
  • waves of over 4m (trough to peak) were measured down the coast of Chile.

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Photo collections

Japan marks 6 months since earthquake, tsunami
from Feel Desain online magazine, October 26, 2011

Series of three photos taken in Japan following the big earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.
This combination of three photos taken over a six-month period shows aftermath of the March 11, 2011 tsunami and its cleanup progress in Wakabayashi-ward in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, in northeastern Japan. The left photo, taken March 16, 2011, shows debris of houses and vehicles cover the area after the tsunami. The middle photo, taken June 2, 2011, shows some debris and cars were removed, while the right photo taken Sept. 3, 2011 shows student volunteers getting rid of smaller rubble in a cleared field. AP/Kyodo News

These photo series show the recovery in Japan, and include locations where USGS scientists studied tsunami coastal effects, deposits, and erosion.

Aerial views of before and after the tsunami:

Photos from Koshimura's field survey in Miyagi, Japan:

From the blog: “The 2011 off the coast of Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami Information
is a link to the Japanese web site:

  • Before and after photos of Sendai,
    side-by-side and orthorectified (“geometrically corrected”)
    • Before: 10/31/2006 (downloaded April 2011)
      • This photo is no longer available at the original URL linked off the PDF
    • After: 3/12/2011
      • Individual georeferenced JPEG quadrangles,
        The aerial photo of post-tsunami Sendai is a composite similar to these two quadrangles:
        Quad 533: and
        Quad 631:

Scientific information (earthquake, tsunami, meteorology)

USGS National Earthquake Information Center upgrades magnitude to 9.0:

NOAA Center for Tsunami Research site with model results:

NOAA animation of the tsunami propagation:
and NOAA's narrated animation of tsunami propagation and maximum amplitude:

Japan Meteorological Agency tsunami information:

West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (travel times and tsunami amplitudes from tide gauge data):

Plot of tsunami data from Japanese Survey Team.At right: plot of tsunami water level data collected by Japanese teams as of 11 April 2011. Infomation was gathered from this web site: Yamamoto Masahiro, UNESCO, translated the caption. Inundation depths (aka tsunami flow depth) are shown as red circles and run-up heights (height that the tsunami reached at maximum inundation) are shown as blue triangles.

Blogs and reports

International Team Studies Tsunami Deposits in Japan to Improve Understanding and Mitigation of Tsunami Hazards

Blog by Rick Wilson, California Geological Survey, on fieldwork in Japan five months after the 11 March 2011 tsunami

EERI report by Lori Dengler, Humboldt State University, on the 11 March 2011 tsunami

Initial report of the May 3-13, 2011 field survey of the 2011 East Japan Tsunami in Sendai, Natori, and Iwanuma cities
IOC/UNESCO ITST Japan Final Report, 10 July 2011

Subsidence, casualties, and situation report for Japan
IOC/UNESCO Bulletin No. 20, 14 April 2011

EERI Tohoku Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Clearinghouse:

Blog-style web site established by Japanese researchers, to disseminate survey information:
"The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami Information" [sic]


Tsunami Aerial Reconnaissance - Maui HI - March 11, 2011 - Filed By Wendy Osher
Aerial video showing tsunami inundation in areas of Maui, HI

Houses destroyed by the 2011 tsunami in Kealakekua Bay, Big Island of Hawaii (Captain Cooks monument, south of Kona):

PBS NewsHour: Japan Tsunami Disaster a Wake-Up Call to U.S. West Coast (8 minute 32 second video)
Spencer Michels reports on new attention to disaster preparations in the U.S.; features USGS tsunami scientist Bruce Jaffe
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