Stepped-up seismic activity raises concerns that big quake may be looming

TOKYO —

Since the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, aftershocks have occurred frequently along Japan’s Pacific coast. That may be the reason why people didn’t pay a great deal of notice to the M4 earthquake that rattled the northern part of Ibaraki Prefecture on Dec 28.

But in retrospect, that one may be worth remembering. Yukan Fuji (Feb 2) notes that particular quake was the first of more than 16 temblors larger than M3 on the Japanese scale, that occurred between Dec 28 and Feb 1.

The epicenters of these quakes were distributed along the Pacific coast of Japan from Iwate Prefecture in the north to Chiba Prefecture in the south.

The frequency of aftershocks following the March 11 quake has been gradually subsiding, but now seismic activity seems to be picking up once again along the eastern Japan’s Pacific coast, raising concerns these may be a harbinger of another major aftershock, possibly in the M8 class.

At 11:53 a.m. on Jan 31, Hitachi City in northern Ibaraki recorded a medium-intensity quake of a low 5 on the Japanese scale. It was estimated to have occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers, and was strong enough to give the capital a sustained shake. Then approximately one hour afterwards, a second, slightly smaller quake occurred in the same area.

On Dec 7, 2012, an M7.3-intensity quake occurred of the coast of Tohoku’s Sanriku area. While casualties and damage were minimal, the energy unleashed by that quake was estimated as about the same as the Great Hanshin Earthquake on Jan 17, 1995, in which 6,434 people died.

Toshiyasu Nagao, professor of Geophysics, director of Earthquake Prediction Research, Oceanic Research and Development at Tokai University, has continued to assert his conviction that since the M9.0 quake centered off Miyagi Prefecture in March 2011, conditions along the tectonic plates beneath Japan have changed drastically, and the Japanese archipelago has entered a period of increased seismic activity.

“The 1891 Nobi Earthquake (estimated to have been above M8.0), is said to affect the surrounding region (centered on northwest Aichi and Gifu prefectures) even today,” Nagao was quoted as saying. “One can consider that aftershocks from that earthquake will continue for the next 100 years. So another M8-class aftershock occurring any time, even tomorrow, would not be unexpected.”

Prof Nagao also expressed concern over the relationship known to exist between earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

“Since 2004, the world has seen four M9-class earthquakes occur. Of the four, three have also resulted in occurrences of major volcanic eruptions in regions near the quakes,” he points out. “The only one of those four that’s yet to be followed by a volcanic eruption was the 3/11 earthquake in Japan.

“The frequent aftershocks can be expected to have an effect on magma in the earth’s core, so we have to stay vigilant,” Nagao adds.

Yukan Fuji interprets this to mean that the possibility of an eruption of its namesake is more than a pipe dream. In a geologically active archipelago such as Japan, almost anything can happen.

  • 3

    kimuzukashiiiii

    Yes .. we know.

    While it is absolutely essential to be prepared for a huge earthquake, this is just scaremongering. We can prepare but there is absolutely nothing the people along Japans east coast can do. Short of packing up and moving to Kyushu.

  • -2

    semperfi

    Exactly, kimuzikashiiii!...........................I always wonder about the wisdom of these articles that tell us what we know and are truly keenly aware of .......................Particularly in light of the fact that people have no control over the imminent disaster, nor have a lot of control to protect against it............................It seems rather like selling sensationalisn and building anxiety.............................. Perhaps the only people who ought to receive this information oVER & OVER AGAIN, ARE THE GOV'T FUNDED AGENCIES ( such as the army, Red Cross) THAT PROVIDE EMERGENCY RESPONSE --------- SO THAT THESE AGENCIES WOULD BE PREPARED TO HELP.

  • 0

    volland

    Why such an article?

    First of all, ther simply is NO WAY to predict earthquakes. And second, I am looking at this very recommendable website EVERY morning:

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Maps/10/140_35.php

    and there clearly is NO "Stepped-up seismic activity", quite the opposite, in the last few weeks there has been less.

    And as we are on the subject... There is this constant scaremongering about "a big óne" under Tokyo. The two underneath the Tokyo Bay where in a depth of over 70 km! So the fault is down there, if there were any other faults above in that area, then at those size 5 quakes, they would have been triggered!

    I know this a japanese fashion, but japanese media should work against hysteria, not feeding it.

  • 5

    Harry_Gatto

    The last sentence of the article says it all, just add the word "anytime".

  • 12

    zichi

    In a geologically active archipelago such as Japan, almost anything can happen.

    And it does and a pity the nuclear power companies didn't pay enough attention prior to the 3/11 nuclear disaster.

    The next big quake could generate a powerful tsunami and blow the top off Mount Fujii.

  • 0

    Tessa

    Quakes, air pollution, radioactivity ... so much for the much-vaunted "safety Japan." I think I need to start making some contingency plans ...

  • 15

    tkoind2

    Look folks, your norma ordinary person is pretty tied up in the day to day. He or she may think about quakes during the shaking or following a major event. But most people will get on with things after and forget. That means those extra water supplies get used or expire. That extra food gets eaten or expires. And they put off gathering those emergency supplies until a less busy week.

    This kind of warning is helpful to keep people thinking about it. Like remembering to take your blood pressure medicine. Not pleasant, not fun, but certainly necessary if you want to be ok.

    So why not use this to your advantage instead of being put off by it. No you cannot prevent the quake. No most people will not move. But you can prepare.

    We have water bottles that rotate through every two weeks with a water server and enough extra for two weeks. We have extra food and remember to rotate it. We have batteries stocked up. We have extra TP and tissues. Some basic medical supplies. We have two mountain bikes that are able to travel if that is our only means.

    None of this is out of fear. It is practical, smart and driven by the knowledge that one day we may have a very bad day and need to be ready. The memory of people going nuts in my local shotengai are still with me. Old ladies punching at each other over TP and grocer shelves emptied. I don't want to experience those worries again. And you shouldn't either. So read these and use them as reminders to get your proverbial act together for the inevitable that you cannot control. Then at least you can help control how bad the aftermath is for you and your loved ones.

  • 2

    Ewan Huzarmy

    I have a feeling it may be tomorrow ! Early Monday morning I had a very reallistic dream that there was a BIG Earthquake on Wednesday evening. you heard it here first........ or maybe I just shouldn't eat cheese in the evening.

  • 0

    Ewan Huzarmy

    So, judging by the thumbs-down, nobody believes in premonition ?

  • 2

    tkoind2

    I don't believe in premonitions. So let's see if you prove me wrong on that point or not. For our mutual sake, I hope you are wrong and I am right that premonitions don't really exist. Far too often they are shared following an event rather than before. So this is an excellent test opportunity.

  • 2

    Ewan Huzarmy

    I hope it's not true either.... it was one hell of a dream, I've never had a quake dream before.

  • 2

    Wakarimasen

    Ewan, I think your dream and gut feeling is as good a predictor as the many others people cite. all of us who live in Tokyo are at some level aware that the big one could strike at anytime. We just hope that the buildings we live and work in are built to a standard that can withstand it and that the preparations made by local and notional government are adequate to deal with any disastrous consequences if they occur. given recent events (fukushima, tunnel) not sure how confident I am about that.......

  • 2

    Wakarimasen

    "notional" governeny a typo, but also maybe a FReudian slip? Meant national.

  • 2

    philly1

    @ tkoinde 2 Well said. You have a very logical & rational system of preparation. I would do well to copy it rather than keep putting off doing something. Now I don't have the excuse that I don't know what to do or how to do it. I hope that you are close to home and to all your resources if something should happen. It probably wouldn't hurt to have a smaller stash at work or in the car--especially of sturdy shoes and required medications.

  • -1

    25psot

    Waiting for Earthquake can be compare like waiting for heart attack. In both cases this tragedy can happen anytime and there is a wired filing of dying and hopelessness . Crossing finger may give some comfort . Designing stronger buildings that's a key for survival .

  • 5

    Virtuoso

    No spot on earth is completely safe from natural catastrophes. Japanese seem to be doing a good job of coping as anyone. Man-made disasters like Fukushima, however, need to be tackled next.

  • 0

    Saulo Akazawa

    If I had a buck for every time I heard that....

  • -7

    tmarie

    Who believes Tokyo is ready?? Raise a hand please! OH look, no hands raised... An earthquake now woudl be the final nail in the coffin - just a matter of time though, isn't it?

  • 2

    CGB Spender

    Need to get my Last Will changed in time before that!

  • 5

    Star-viking

    zichiFeb. 05, 2013 - 08:41AM JST

    And it does and a pity the nuclear power companies didn't pay enough attention prior to the 3/11 nuclear disaster.

    Governments too.

  • 4

    mrkobayashi

    Tmarie, it almost sounds like you want Tokyo flattened! Anyhow, my in-laws are certainly ready. They were in Takarazuka when the Hanshin earthquake hit. They were in Tokyo for the big one 2 years ago, but the 3 story house they built has pillars running 30 meters deep. The house and land cost 1 oku yen, apparently. Paid off though, as two houses in the neighborhood were damaged beyond repair.

  • 1

    avigator

    T-Koind2 is perfectly right. Anything can happen and having extra cash and maybe water, food, and blankets in the car can make a difference if you get stranded.

  • 1

    SirFrancisWinchesterIV

    So if there were another earthquake at M8 or higher in relatively the same area, what would happen at the Fukushima site? Would a tsunami flooding the site trigger an even worse disaster than before? Just wondering what is being done there to prepare for some event like that.

  • 1

    nandakandamanda

    SirFrancis, they built a temporary barrier there after 3/11 which would be knocked out by another tsunami of much less power. Much of the hard work which has gone into stabilizing the four reactors would be destroyed and huge amounts of radiation would be released into the atmosphere and into the ocean. As far as I know, little is being done to protect the place from a new tsunami. If anything really has been done, nothing much has been said about it.

    If it happens, a spokesman will probably say "souteigai" (It was outside the bounds of possibility).

  • 0

    SirFrancisWinchesterIV

    Thanks for the info, nandakandamanda, here's to hoping for the worst case scenario not to happen.

  • 3

    philly1

    Ewan, you were right. Big enough at 8.0 in the Solomon Islands. There you go. It wasn't the cheese.

  • 0

    nandakandamanda

    SirFrancis, in this link you can see the sandbag type of sea wall (actually nets filled with rocks) at Fukushima Daiichi that was completed there by last summer.

    http://hibi-zakkan.sblo.jp/pages/user/iphone/article?article_id=46472637

    (TEPCO said at the time that they also plan to build a new wall someday to withstand 15 meter waves, but that such a project would take time.)

    In the meantime they say that this bag wall would stand up to the 7 or 8 meter-high waves which might be generated from an M8 earthquake, according to the article.

  • 0

    nandakandamanda

    PS "...by last summer" should read "...by summer of 2011". Apologies.

  • -1

    tmarie

    **Tmarie, it almost sounds like you want Tokyo flattened! **

    Pointing out that Japan is woefully unprepared is suggesting I want Tokyo to be flattened? Interesting. I am merely pointing out that Japan isn't prepared and Tokyo WILL be a mess if one were to hit - which I hope doesn't happen. But it is just a matter of time and IF one were to hit soon, the result of it on Tokyo and the rest of Japan will not be pretty.

  • 3

    whosthetyrant

    It s human nature to be lulled into a false sense of security when there is no major quake. People do need a constant reminder, as there are some things we can do to be prepared, like taking some emergency things with you when you go out the door; have enough emergency water and food; cooking gas, stove, matches, candles, lanterns , batteries, and money on hand if banks close. I'm surprised by the number of people I talk to that do not have basic food, water and supplies stored for emergencies. As we walk out the door each day, we just might not be back for awhile, or we might not see our loved ones again. Love them now

  • -1

    nedinjapan

    We are simply reminded that we should not forget large earthquakes are common in Japan. Why does a simple reminder scare us and make us enter the 'denial' mode? I am also ready to pack and go when the time is right. I am tired of checking food labels on each and every item to make sure they don't come from earthquake-tsunami-radiation hit areas, and they tell me cheap restaurants use those anyway ...

  • 1

    Surf O'Holic

    This article is informative. Not fear-mongering.

  • -1

    timtak

    Recently I have been reading in our paper that several Giant Oarfish (Ryuuguu-no-tsukai, lit 'messenger of the dragon's palace/ sea god') which are very long deep sea fish have been caught in moored nets in coastal waters all around Japan. I read reports in the local section of my paper in Yamaguchi, regarding. Googlling the Japanese (リュウグウノツカイ) today there are news items regarding Oita and Toyama.

    There is a legend that the appearance of these fish is a predictor of earthquakes. The connection between the movement of these fish and earthquakes is backed up by a small amount of Japanese scholarship, that conjects that the appearance of oar-fish in coastal waters is related to plate movement generated electricity affecting the navigation systems of the fish.

    But then, the last time a lot of oarfish were seen washed up around Japan was almost exactly a year before the last major quake (and tsunami) - if you google oarfish and earthquake you will find the March 2010 article.

  • -1

    Disillusioned

    Well then, isn't that just a totally inconclusive load of observationary rabble. Just about anybody could have made the same observation after 15 minutes on Google. The only thing that is conclusive is the final statement of the article, "anything can happen."

  • 0

    Farmboy

    And second, I am looking at this very recommendable website EVERY morning: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Maps/10/140_35.php and there clearly is NO "Stepped-up seismic activity", quite the opposite, in the last few weeks there has been less.

    Volland,

    Yes, and you're looking at a phased-out website that was never very good for Japanese quakes, unless they were over 6 magnitude. Quakes below that magnitude, for Japan, often didn't/don't appear. That site, as you can read at the top of the page, has been replaced by a newer, more comprehensive and accurate site.

    Personally, I like the JMA site here:

    http://www.jma.go.jp/en/quake/

    There HAS been an increase in larger (4-5) quakes between Ibaraki and Sanriku oki recently. Sanriku oki is where the megaquake happened.

  • 2

    timtak

    I plotted the 'earthquake predicting' (according to legend) fish sightings onto a government map showing the fault lines in Japan. The sightings are on the opposite, Western Seaboard, roughly parallel to the "The Niigata-Kobe Tectonic Zone," which marks the end of the Eurasian plate, between January 2nd and April 5th. See below with links to the Japanese newspaper articles regarding the sightings.

    http://www.burogu.com/2013/02/deep-sea-fish-and-next-japanese.html

  • 0

    Farmboy

    Timtak,

    I like your oarfish map. But catfish are important, too, for earthquake prediction. This website is interesting:

    http://pinktentacle.com/2011/04/namazu-e-earthquake-catfish-prints/

  • 0

    Kamala Brown-Sparks

    The legend involves Kashima & the Namazu. Kashima is the God responsible for controlling the Namazu ( Catfish), which are thought to cause Eartquakes. This is the information that I've found in mythology so far :-).@

  • 1

    timtak

    Dear Farmboy Yes, I am aware of the catfish legend. I have blogged about catfish that are thought to produce earthquakes according to Japanese legend. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nihonbunka/5525195161/ What is the connection? I think that the connection is in the whiskers.

    Oarfish (which have been sighted a lot recently) and ribbon fish (which likewise have been sighted a lot recently) are deep sea fish which live in an environment without light. In order to sense their prey both have long pelvic fins, strand or whisker like "rays" that are used to detect movement. This feature is shared by catfish.

    While oarfish and ribbon fish are deep sea, and therefore not observable until they reach land, catfish are observable, and also have whiskers that are sense organs.

    Very recent research has suggested that piezoelectric effects induced by the compaction of granite in seismic activity causes, like a massive electric lighter I guess, to create static electricity fields, which these whiskered fish are able to sense. In the case of catfish, humans were over the ages probably able to see catfish writing immediately prior to a quake and therefore believed that the movement of catfish (namazu, "the earth shaker") caused quakes.

    But in fact it is all a product of the piezoelectric static that also causes hairs to stand on end. Indeed our fury friends, dogs and cats, are also said to predict quakes.

    Quakefinder, a US company placed air ion measurement devices along fault lines in California and found that air ion readings "saturated" (off the chart) in the13 hours prior to a quake in California. The level of ions came down, and and hour later a quake.

    I have added the information to my blog post linked above.

  • 1

    timtak

    All of what I said about animals predicting quakes, catfish, and more was researched by the late great professor Motoji Ikeya on whose website you can see videos of catfish jumping in response to electromagnetic radiation. http://www.eqsigns.net There are books papers and more. The children's book is a quick guide to predicting earthquakes due to animal behaviour and other anomalies。

  • 0

    25psot

    We happy that earth is alive inside or there would be no life on Earth but unfortunately earthquake regions can fill that earth life in negative way.

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