The Ring of Fire
The Ring of Fire is commonly known for its frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This area borders the Pacific Ocean and is made up of a group of islands east of China where the Pacific, Philippine, and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The islands east of China were able to form due to the volcanic eruptions. Two of these large islands are the countries of Japan and Taiwan. Up to 1,000 earthquakes happen in Japan every year. This is how frequent earthquakes are in the Ring of Fire. Not only that, but the earthquakes have a chance of triggering a tsunami, a series of waves that gets larger as it approaches the coast, which eventually crashes onto the land and claims many lives.
A tsunami – an unusually large wave affecting coastal areas – is caused initially by an underwater disturbance such as an earthquake or mudslide. This disturbance tends to agitate surrounding water, causing small waves to form. These waves have a height of only a few feet, and cause very little disturbance at sea; their wavelengths often measure in the miles. However, as the waves approach a coastal area and encounter the continental shelf, the water they contain is forced up and down more violently, increasing the height of the waves and making them capable of the destruction for which they are famous. Each wave can travel well inland, taking with it boats, low-lying areas, and any other movable objects in its path. However, long wavelength means that they come at widely-spaced intervals; this was exemplified by a tsunami striking Lisbon, Portugal in 1755 during which hundreds of people were killed by the crest of a tsunami when they ventured onto the harbor floor, which had been cleared of water during the passage of the trough of the wave. Besides the Lisbon tsunami, other notable incidences of this phenomenon have occurred in Indonesia (1883 and 2004), Chile (1960), and most recently in Japan (2011). International efforts are being made to install a tsunami warning system more effective at predicting where and when the waves will strike.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale rattled Japan, and later caused a tsunami that wreaked havoc on the coastal cities. The epicenter was off the coast of Honshu, the most populated Japanese island. Although the earthquake alone did damage skyscrapers, houses, highways, and other buildings, it demolished three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The reactors exploded and leaked radioactive gas into the air, damaging the atmosphere, and later water and food were also found to have traces of radioactive material in them. Many people were affected by the radiation as well, suffering from radiation poisoning or having to evacuate their homes and leave for other parts of the country. More than a year later, Fukushima isn’t entirely harmless. A recent investigation has shown that Japanese officials downplayed the catastrophe, meaning that any information received from them needs to be questioned on its credibility. Japanese officials said that the damaged fuel rods were safely submerged in water, but after examining the water levels, they were found to be significantly lower than was thought. The rods not being submerged in water leads to worry that the remnants of the rods could be in danger of heating up again. The low water levels also raise concerns that radioactive water is leaking out of the reactor at a higher rate than previously thought and could be traveling to the ocean. More than a year after the disaster, Japan is still recovering from the disaster, having to rebuild the coastal cities affected by the tsunami as well as fixing the nuclear plant.
2011 Tsunami Disaster
On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by a 23 foot tsunami. The tsunami was triggered by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the largest earthquake in Japan’s history. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center made apparent how powerful the tsunami was when they issued warnings to Russia, Taiwan, Hawaii, Indonesia, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the west coasts of the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and South America. The disaster left 15,839 dead, 5,950 injured, and 3,642 people missing.
“Ring of Fire” by K. Yoo; “Tsunamis” by A. May; “Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster” by L. Dunnagan; “2011 Tsunami Disaster” by M. McKay
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