Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is Japan Sunk?

Something I wondered about, but only found data on recently, is whether any part of Japan is higher or lower as a result of the March 11th earthquake.  Well, it turns out that the quake was so powerful it pulled the entire country out - and down - into the Pacific!  Some coastal towns which escaped the tsunami for one reason or another, now face regular flooding at high tide because of their new lower elevation or are cut off when the streets become impassable twice each day.  Sewage systems are then overwhelmed, and people watch sea creatures swimming down the street - only to be left stranded and dying with the seaweed and detritus when the tide recedes.  You see, the country's northern half sits on the North American tectonic plate and the mostly undersea Pacific tectonic plate usually slides under it, so Japan has been slowly migrating west.  But in March's catastrophe the fault line between the two plates actually ruptured instead of sliding.  The portion of the plate under Japan went lower as it slid toward the east!  (Some areas moved southeast roughly 5 meters while sinking a meter or so lower.)  Parts of the Tokyo, two hundred plus kilometers away, still moved up to 9 inches eastward.  In the northeast near the epicenter, concrete manholes supported by their underground pipes stick skyward out of the streets that used to cover them, and sunken power poles have left live wires dangerously low.  The twice daily flooding means that construction crews are hampered by water and dead blowfish.  This is the new reality in Japan - at least until the next Big One.  (AP)