2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
Compiled by Monica Bruckner
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 8.9-9 megathrust earthquake off the north eastern coast of Japan triggered a large tsunami, with wave heights reaching up to 10m. These two events caused widespread devastation and destruction in Japan, including washing away entire cities as well as damaging the country's nuclear power plants, thus causing potential meltdowns.
Browse the complete set of Visualization Collections. If you have comments or additional resources to add to the page, use our Feedback box to let us know.
Jump down to Information and News Reports
| Teaching Activities and Materials
Ishinomaki Japan Tsunami Before and After Urban 3D Model (more info)
This is an urban 3D Model animation showing Ishinomaki, Japan before and after the 2011 tsunami caused severe damage. The before model was created from archival scanned film aerials. The after model was created from Pictometry imagery collected by KKC.
Tsunami Event - March 11, 2011 NOAA Modeling Animations (more info)
This website, from NOAA, hosts a collection of links to images, animations, and videos related to the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The graphics display forecast results, showing qualitative and quantitative information about the tsunami, including tsunami wave interaction with ocean floor bathymetric features, and neighboring coastlines. Tsunami model amplitude information is shown color-coded according the scale bar.
How Shifting Plates Caused the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan (more info)
This page features USGS visualizations including a slide show of the sudden movement of the Pacific tectonic plate under the North American plate caused a massive earthquake and a tsunami. It also contains maps of the magnitude of shaking and predicted tsunami wave heights from the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Honshu Mw=9 Earthquake 11 March 2011 (more info)
This web page, from CIRES, provides information, diagrams, and movies related to the March 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. These visualizations include mechanisms behind the earthquake and tsunami as well as information about the aftermath of these events. A section on Japan's nuclear power stations and earthquakes is also included.
PPP Kinamatic Solution for the Great Tohoku Earthquake, M9.0 (more info)
This website features animations that show coordinate variations every 1 sec. relative to the pre-earthquake a priori coordinates from the March 2011 Japan earthquake. There are four animation movie files available: The top animation shows the co-seismic deformation in a fixed color scale for the entire event and north, east, height components are scaled identically. The deformation is shown in real-time - meaning that every 1-second frame is shown for 1 second. The second animation from the top shows the same but is sped up by a factor of 24. The bottom two animations have an adjusted color scale to emphasize the spatial variability of the seismic waves. Units for the motion are in cm.
Tsunami Movement ( This site may be offline. )
This map, from ESRI, shows an animated model of tsunami movement throughout the Pacific Ocean following the March 2011 earthquake in Japan. Users can choose from street map, topographic map, and satellite imagery. There is also a layer that shows populated areas on the map.
How Japan Shifted ( This site may be offline. )
This map, from ESRI, shows how much the earth's surface in Japan shifted because of tectonic plate movement following the March 2011 earthquake. Viewers can use the time slider tool to also see the aftershocks of the earthquake that had a magnitude of greater than 5.0.
The Science Behind the News: Tsunamis (more info)
This article, from the Why Files, uses images, diagrams, and video to explain the causes of tsunamis and how we might lessen their cataclysmic potential. It includes information and video of the 2011 Japan tsunami.
Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami (more info)
Satellite images, taken by GeoEye, from before and after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Earthquake early warning videos (more info)
This web page features videos of the early warning system in action, images of some professional poster presentations, and a description of an in-class kinesthetic activity about how the early warning system works. It also addresses some of the affective aspects of natural disasters.
Post-Earthquake Images of Japan (more info)
This web page from Google offers high-resolution imagery, courtesy of their partners at GeoEye, which can be accessed by download a KML file provided on the site and explored in Google Earth. Imagery can also be viewed with Google Maps, or via a link to a Picasa album of before-and-after shots.
Expected wave heights (more info)
A map of the expected tsunami waveheights from the Japan earthquake 11 March 2011
Maps of epicenter location, aftershocks, historical seismicity, and more (more info) Maps of epicenter location, aftershocks, historical seismicity, and more related to the 11 March 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan.
US Groundmotion Video of the Earthquake Event Near the East Coast of Japan (more info) This site, from EarthScope, features a groundmotion movie (Quicktime) of North American crust nearly 6 minutes after the terrible Japan earthquake.
IRIS: Recent Earthquake Teachable Moments (more info)
Powerpoint presentations, animations and other visualizations for anyone who wants to teach about the most recent earthquake in the news.
Google Earth Science Seismic Zones (more info)
This selection of Google Earth and SketchUp files illustrate and model seismic zones using block models and cross-sections. Regions include Japan, Seattle, the Rockies, San Francisco, Iceland, the New Madrid fault, and I-64 (east coast of US), among others. Right-click each image to download a KMZ file for viewing with Google Earth. To examine KMZ contents, unzip and open the KML source doc with your text editor.
Back to Top
Information and News Reports
CNN - Tsnumani Waves Strike Japan video (more info)
CNN video of the 11 March 2011 tsunami that hit Japan after the magnitude 9 earthquake.
The Maddow Blog - Tsunami Links Kit (more info)
A collection of links from MSNBC's Maddow blog related to the March 11, 2011 tsunami that stemmed from the 9 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan.
BBC - Japan earthquake: Footage of moment tsunami hit (more info)
This video footage shows the force at which the tsunami struck Japan's coast.
In the fishing port of Miyako, in Iwate prefecture, boats were overturned, while video from Kamaishi city shows cars being dragged down city streets by the water.
The tsunami that followed the 8.9-magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc along a huge stretch of Japan's north-east coast, sweeping far inland and devastating a number of towns and villages. Powerful aftershocks are continuing to hit the region.
Footage courtesy of TV Asahi and TBS
Quake moved Japan coast 8 feet, shifted Earth's axis (more info)
An article from CNN about how the magnitude 9.0 March 2011 earthquake of the coast of Japan shifted Japan's coast and the Earth's Axis.
BBC - Tsunami Hits Japan article (more info)
A BBC article with maps related to the 11 March 2011 8.9 Japan earthquake and the tsunami that followed the quake.
CNN - Earthquake rocks Japan (high resolution images) (more info)
High resolution images from the aftermath of a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March 2011
CNN - Widespread destruction from Japan earthquake, tsunamis (more info)
CNN video and articles related to the aftermath of an 9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami and whirlpool.
Maps: Where the Japan earthquake and tsunami hit (more info)
Several maps from the March 11, 2011 tsunami, including earthquake intensity, where the tsunami hit, historical Japanese earthquakes, and tsunami wave travel times.
NPR - Hundreds Dead as Quake, Tsunami Rake Japan (more info)
Photos, maps, and an article of the devastating tsunami that hit Japan following a magnitude 8.9 earthquake on 11 March, 2011
Primer: Japan's Nuclear Crisis (more info)
This article, by NPR, details the nuclear crisis in Japan following damage to Japanese nuclear power plants following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Back to Top
Teaching Activities and Materials
Back to Top
- Teach the Earth Site Guide for Tsunamis - This Site Guide points to various parts of the Teach the Earth portal that deal with tsunamis.
- Teach the Earth Site Guide for Earthquakes - This Site Guide points to various parts of the Teach the Earth portal that deal with earthquakes.
- Tsunami Visualizations - This set of visualizations can help students and faculty explore aspects of tsunamis.
- Earthquake Visualizations - This set of visualizations can help students and faculty explore aspects of earthquakes.
- Plate Tectonic Movements Visualization Collection - This large collection of plate tectonic visualizations includes simple animations, GIS-based animated maps, paleogeographic maps and globes, as well as numerous illustrations and photos that may be helpful in lecture or labs.
- Earthquake early warning videos (more info) This web page features videos of the early warning system in action, images of some professional poster presentations, and a description of an in-class kinesthetic activity about how the early warning system works. It also addresses some of the affective aspects of natural disasters.
- The New York Times Teaching and Learning Network (more info) hosts a large collection of teaching materials, including articles, visualizations, lesson plans, and teaching activities related to teaching about the Japan earthquake and tsunami.
- Using Data to Teach the Ocean System Datasets and Tools - This collection of web sites contains data-rich resources that can be used for developing teaching materials. This is a subset drawn from our larger collection, Using Data in the Classroom. A browsable list of approximately 40 internet resources each with a short summary is also available and can be further narrowed down by subject, ocean environment, or resource type.
- The Earth Exploration Toolbook - The Earth Exploration Toolbook has a number of data-rich activities designed for high school classrooms. Related examples include:
- Tsunami Related Activities from On the Cutting Edge - This collection of over 20 activities and problem sets features tsunamis. Some activities involve students using real data and tools such as GIS and remote sensing to investigate tsunamis.
- MARGINS Mini-lesson Collection - The MARGINS project focuses on understanding processes governing the evolution of continental margins. MARGINS Mini-Lessons are modular learning materials that repurpose the data resources, visualizations, and other information sources developed through MARGINS and MARGINS-related research for use in examining fundamental earth processes in undergraduate classrooms from a multidisciplinary perspective.
- Earthquakes Activities Search - This link will provide users with about 70 activities offered within the Pedagogy in Action project. These can be further narrowed by disciplinary subject or by pedagogy employed. Each activity listing provides a short summary of the activity.