Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

CIRES scientist investigates Japanese quake

CIRES scientist investigates Japanese quake

Fellow Roger Bilham visits Japan to uncover the causes and impacts of the disaster

Less than three days after a 9-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, geologist Roger Bilham, a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), was on a plane to Japan with the NOVA team to investigate the science behind the disaster and its scientific impacts.

In Japan, Bilham visited the Earthquake Research Institute in Tokyo and viewed the devastation of the tsunami by air.  The Honshu earthquake is one of five earthquakes in the world to have exceeded 8.4 since 2004.  The ground along the east side of Japan dropped by almost 10 feet, unleashing a catastrophic tsunami: 30-foot waves reached nearly three miles inland along the country’s northeast coast.

“The science community hasn’t seen many earthquakes this big,” said CIRES graduate student Celia Schiffman, a student of Bilham’s. “Visiting the scene presents an opportunity to learn more about earthquakes.” 

“The earthquake community has failed to forecast the immensity of the world’s last few mega-quakes,” indicated Bilham on his return. “We have been too conservative in our anticipations of seismic futures, basing them on short or incomplete historicial archives of ancient earthquakes.”
On his website, Bilham details the mechanisms behind the earthquake and talks about his visit.  He also has posted photos of the devastation and links to the ERI and United States Geological Survey. For more information, click here:

NOVA is a series of science shows produced by PBS.

Roger Bilham, CIRES, 303-492-6189,
Katy Human, CIRES, 303-735-0196,

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