Deep-sea study reveals cause of 2011 tsunami
Drilling in Japan Trench by international scientific team finds unusually thin, slippery geological fault
The devastating tsunami that struck Japan’s Tohoku region in March 2011 was touched off by a submarine earthquake far more massive than anything geologists had expected in that zone.
Now, a team of scientists including McGill University geologist Christie Rowe, has published a set of studies in the journal Science that shed light on what caused the dramatic displacement of the seafloor off the northeastern coast of Japan. The findings also suggest that other zones in the northwest Pacific may be at risk of similar huge earthquakes.
Prof. Rowe, of McGill’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, was one of 27 scientists from 10 countries who participated in a 50-day expedition in 2012 on the Japanese drilling vessel Chikyu. The team drilled three holes in the Japan Trench area to study the rupture zone of the 2011 earthquake, a fault in the ocean floor where two of the Earth’s major tectonic plates meet, deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.