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Setting sail on unknown seas: The past, present and future of species rafting

The 2011 Japanese tsunami set adrift tons of debris, some of it carrying live plants and animals that landed in North America more than a year later. It isn’t the first time species have traveled the globe on ersatz rafts, and it won’t be the last. But it is concerning.

24 Feb 2013

Voices: From Haiti to Japan: A tale of two disaster recoveries

A year ago this month, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan. Two years and two months earlier, on Jan. 12, 2010, a much smaller earthquake devastated Haiti. Both earthquakes occurred on a weekday and in the afternoon, but there is very little else that is similar about these two events or how the countries have recovered.

09 Mar 2012

Voices: Nuclear plants and natural disasters: Fukushima's fallout

Before it happened, it was hard to imagine that a combined megaquake and tsunami in Japan could cascade to a nuclear disaster. Yet that’s exactly what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi (Number 1) nuclear power plant, 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, last month. This incident has put Japan’s nuclear policy in the spotlight, but its implications go far beyond a single country.

31 May 2011

Voices: What happened at Fukushima?

The Fukushima Daiichi power plant located in the port town of Okuma in the Fukushima Prefecture, northeast Japan, has six boiling-water-type nuclear reactors supplied by General Electric (units 1, 2 and 3), Toshiba (units 3 and 5) and Hitachi (unit 4) for

06 Apr 2011

Voices: The confounding economics of natural disasters

In the hours (not days) after the enormous earthquake hit Japan on March 11, before it was even known that the Fukushima power plant had been badly disabled and well before the scope of the mortality and damage had been assessed, the Japanese yen rapidly appreciated in value. The G7 nations moved to quickly stabilize the yen — not to prevent it from falling, but to prevent it from further appreciating.

28 Apr 2011

Gauging nuclear disasters

A nuclear accident is defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an incident in which people died or property damage topped $50,000. In 1990, IAEA introduced the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) to rate and rank nuclear accidents. INES is a logarithmic scale that consists of seven levels: 0 (Deviation, no safety significance), 1 (Anomaly), 2 (Incident), 3 (Serious incident), 4 (Accident with local consequences), 5 (Accident with wider consequences), 6 (Serious accident) and 7 (Major accident).

31 May 2011

Asia's hazardous month

August is shaping up to be a hazardous month for Asia — from the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean to Japan. In just the first half of the month, several earthquakes and two typhoons have struck the region. Here’s an update on these damaging events.


At 7:55 p.m. local time on Aug. 9, a magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck near Japan’s Izu Islands, 325 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. No death or damages have been reported.

11 Aug 2009

Blogging on EARTH: AGU: Japan tsunami actually made population more vulnerable?

Usually, when a major natural disaster strikes, a population becomes more alert and aware. People know what warning signs to watch for; they know what to do should such an event occur again. They increase their chances of staying alive. For example, intergenerational knowledge of tsunamis passed down by island tribes around the Indian Ocean is credited with saving lives during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

05 Dec 2011

Mag.-8.9 quake strikes Japan, tsunami heads for Hawaii

A powerful magnitude-8.9 earthquake struck near the eastern coast of Honshu, Japan, today at 2:46 p.m. local time. The quake sent a tsunami racing across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii, making landfall just before 3 a.m. local time. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has more information.

11 Mar 2011

Japan's megaquake and killer tsunami: How did this happen?

On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. local time, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake ruptured a 500-kilometer-long fault zone off the northeast coast of Japan. Its epicenter was 130 kilometers off Sendai, Honshu; it occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 32 kilometers. The temblor violently shook northeast Honshu for six minutes, and collapsed its coastline by one meter.

17 May 2011