On March 11, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan. The Tohoku Earthquake, as it is now known, was focused in the subduction zone plate boundary resulting in the formation of a tsunami event radiating across the Pacific.
The event of March 11 generated a diverse array of tsunami borne debris, including poles, trees, entire houses, shipping containers, vehicles, small fishing boats, and large ships. A team of U.S. and Japanese researchers led by Clay Naito, associate professor of civil engineering at Lehigh University, received support from the National Science Foundation to assess effects of tsunami debris impact on the built environment, to collect direct evidence of debris impact from the recent tsunami, to examine structural performance of buildings and bridges subject to impact demands, to use this information to improve the ongoing NEES research program on tsunami debris, and to strengthen US-Japan research and collaboration on tsunami debris concerns.
The tsunami inundation across the northeast coast of Japan was severe, in one case resulting in a run-up height of 23.6 m above sea level. The tsunami event resulted in widespread destruction to coastal ports and communities. Estimates by the National Police Agency of Japan put the number of dead and missing at over 27,000 with approximately 92 percent of those resulting from drowning. The tragedy reinforces the need to improve our understanding of the effects of tsunami inundation on modern coastal communities such as those present in the Northwestern United States.
The U.S. team consisting of Naito (Lehigh University), Dan Cox (Oregon State University), and Kent Yu (Degenkolb Engineers) set out on a 5-day field inspection of the Northeast coast of Japan in June and blogged live from the sites they inspected.
Read the team's blog for their observations.