In fact, the Tohoku earthquake is the only earthquake in Japan known to have surpassed 9.0. Since four plates are involved in the formation of Japan, it makes a complex folded structure kind of like when you close a cardboard box without any tape. Why Japan has so Many Earthquakes. Well, this relates to a fundamental concept in geology- why do rocks melt? The quake mostly affected the capital of Asuka and killed upwards of 1,000 people, a considerable death toll for the time period. The andesites of Glencoe , Scotland long predate any currently extant ocean floor, but look like a similar story. But what about subduction zones, places where plates converge? This ring essentially surrounds the Pacific Ocean, going up the side of North and South American and coming down Japan, Indonesia, and New Zealand. Minor earthquakes are a part of everyday life, and major destructive earthquakes, unfortunately, take their toll on the country regularly. Earthquakes cause tsunamis when the movement of the seafloor is enough to move large amounts of water. And recently on December 22, which is specifically on the Sudan Strait, at least 222 people were killed and 843 injured. To translate this into everyday language, “adiabatic decompression melting” just means that melting occurs because rock is moved quickly upward in the Earth. Near the recent earthquake location, three tectonic plates are interacting! Though they move slowly, just 3-5 centimeters per year, their enormous size gives them incredible force, momentum and power. Why are there Earthquakes and Volcanoes in Japan? Many of the most serious earthquakes in Japan have topped 8.0, but these are still isolated to one or two a century. To understand why Japan is subject to these natural disasters, you’ll have to learn a little about the island nation’s geology. The geology of Japan is some of the richest and most fascinating in the world. This represents about 20% of the world’s earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.0 or higher. The geotherm is the rate at which the temperature changes with depth in the Earth. Worldwide Plate Boundaries. So, when thinking about whether or not a rock will become molten, you need to think about both temperature and pressure. The wonderful diagram below (from Wikipedia Commons) explains how melts are produced in the Earth. NOAA’s West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, Disney–Pixar’s “Lava” explained by a geologist–volcanologist | OnCirculation, The Latest: Friday’s spectacular volcanic eruption in Japan, in one GIFKALEINAR.COM -, The Bridge: Connecting Science and Policy, Estimated tsunami travel times. This is the deadliest earthquake in Japanese history. Now that you understand what that means, you have a great science phrase to impress your friends with at that next party. This represents about 20% of the world’s earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.0 or higher. Some are strong enough to be felt on one or more of the islands. Japan is located along the Pacific “ring of fire”, on the edges of several continental and oceanic tectonic plates. Figure taken from NOAA, Volcanic island arc & subduction zone. NOAA’s West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center The quake comes just months after another powerful and similarly sized quake … Simply put, there is so much earthshaking in Japan because the Japanese islands are part of a volcanic island arc. The little triangles indicate a subduction zone boundary. This is the only earthquake besides the Great Kanto Earthquake to kill over 100,000 people, and considering Japan’s population was less than half of what it was in 1923, this is all the more shocking. Wow. The second figure shows that there has been quite a bit of earthshaking- both small and large- in this area of Japan since 1990. Knowing this, you can get a sense of the incredible power released by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake that rated a 9.0. 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