Continuing earthquakes in Kumamoto have moved a GPS observation station nearly one meter

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RocketNews 24 (by Preston Phro):

Strong earthquakes are expected to continue for another week.

The continuing earthquakes that have hit the island of Kyushu for the last four days have wrought significant destruction on the region and resulted in the loss of 41 lives. Beloved historic sites have seen extensive damage, and landslides and a small eruption from the volcano Mount Aso have only added to the disaster and anxiety in the area.

The severity of the earthquakes can be difficult to comprehend, but recent news stories show just how much they have changed the face of the land. According to NHK, one GPS observation point in Minimi Aso moved southwest 97 centimeters (38 inches). The same observation point rose 23 centimeters (about 9 inches). Another observation point moved east-northeast 75 centimeters (about 28.7 inches) and fell 20 centimeters (about 7.87 inches).

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The tremors and aftershocks have yet to stop and NHK reports that over 400 have been detected between the first earthquake on April 14 and noon on April 17. Japan’s meteorological agency expects strong tremors to continue for some time and have called for vigilance in the area, indicating that the earthquakes with a seismic activity of “weak 6” may continue for around another week. Currently, 11 people have been reported missing.

In addition to the earthquakes striking Japan, a massive earthquake has also hit Ecuador, resulting in the deaths of 28 people.

Nepal’s landmarks, before and after the earthquake

Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple, Katmandu

2014

Before: Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple, Katmandu
April 25, 2015
Before: Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple, Katmandu
Volunteers helped to remove the debris of a three-story temple.

Vatsala Shikhara Temple, Bhaktapur

July 2014

Before: Vatsala Shikhara Temple, Bhaktapur

April 26, 2015

Before: Vatsala Shikhara Temple, Bhaktapur

After the earthquake, people occupied the square in front of a collapsed temple in Bhaktapur, eight miles east of Katmandu.

Dharahara Tower, Katmandu

July 15, 2013

Before: Dharahara Tower, Katmandu

April 25, 2015

Before: Dharahara Tower, Katmandu

A nine-story structure built in 1832 on orders from the queen. It was made of bricks more than a foot thick, and had recently been reopened to the public. Sightseers could climb a narrow spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 200 feet above the city.

Maju Deval, Katmandu

July 2014

Before: Maju Deval, Katmandu

April 25, 2015

Before: Maju Deval, Katmandu

This temple, built in 1690, is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

150+ whales found beached in Ibaraki, similar to what happened before 2011 Tohoku earthquake

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RocketNews 24:

A little over four years ago, a week before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, 50 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture, only about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Now the same omen of bad things to come has happened again. On April 9, about 150 melon-headed whales were found beached in Ibaraki Prefecture. As emergency teams race to save the whales, one thought is sitting in the back of their minds: is this foreshadowing another giant earthquake?

On April 9, more than 150 melon-headed whales (a type of dolphin) were found beached across a stretch of four kilometers (2.5 miles) of shoreline in Hokotashi City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Most of the whales were in critical condition, though the Ibaraki coast guard has been busy returning those still alive to the ocean. The ones that were too weak to be returned were euthanized.

The reason behind the mass beaching is still unknown, but it is suspected to be due to underwater tremors. Since melon-headed whales tend to prefer deeper waters, they would be more sensitive to plate/tectonic changes than other undersea mammals.

This has people worrying about another earthquake on the same or even higher level as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. There is a theory that beached whales are often a sign of undersea tremors, and the severity of the incoming earthquake can be estimated by how many whales are beached. The coast guard reported that while every year some amount of whales are found beached on the shoreline, this incident is by far the most that they have ever encountered.

The city where the beaching took place, Hokotashi City, has started to take emergency measures against the predicted earthquake and tsunami. It is unclear whether the surrounding areas are preparing as well, but they should seriously consider it. To all our readers in the area, be safe and stay alert for any warnings!

Yahoo! Japan to make disaster relief donation for every person who searches for 3.11 on March 11

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RocketNews 24:

Four years on, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis that befell Japan’s Tohoku region on March 11, 2011 have very little effect on the day-to-day lives of most people in the country. The rolling blackouts have stopped. Batteries and bottled water are once again readily available. Trains are running, and whole cities aren’t spending hours walking home from work or school.

But while a return to normalcy is a desirable, and ultimately necessary, part of recovery, it’s also important to remember what happened. To stem the forgetfulness that often accompanies the later stages of coping with tragedy, on March 11 Yahoo! Japan will be making a donation to the Tohoku recovery efforts for every person that searches for “3.11” through the company’s search engine.

The Internet provider and portal conducted an identical initiative last year, supplying a total of 25,683,250 yen (approximately US $216,00) to charitable organizations. This year, Yahoo! will be making its donation to the Tohoku Recovery Support Organization (Toholu Fukkou Shien Dantai in Japanese).

A 10-yen donation will be made for each user who searches for “3.11” between midnight and 11:59 p.m. on March 11. To reiterate, the donation is made per user, not per search. Once you’ve searched once, you’ve done your job, so there’s nothing to be gained by repeating the search over and over again.

Instead, Yahoo! would prefer you took the time to read through some of the results that come up, in keeping with the program’s aim of creating a moment in which to think about the places and people’s lives which were so abruptly changed in 2011. The company also plans to release a video with interviews of people from the disaster-struck towns of Ishinomaki, Yamadamachi, and Soma, which are located in Miyazaki, Iwate, and Fukushima Prefectures, respectively. Yahoo! will also be creating a visualization of 3.11-releated searches, similar to the one from 2014

▼ Aside from jishin/地震 (“earthquake”), dengonban/伝言板 (“message board”), yoshin/余震 (aftershock), gienkin/義援金 (“donation”), and gasorin/ガソリン (“gasoline”) are all prominently featured.

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Yahoo! Japan’s search box can be found here.

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Prince William meets tsunami survivors in Miyagi

Japan Times:

Britain’s Prince William stood atop a hill Sunday in Miyagi Prefecture, stretched below him barren land known as the “Bay of Destruction,” where a tsunami swept ashore four years ago.

On the last leg of his four-day visit to Japan, William laid a bouquet near a shrine gate that overlooks the bay to commemorate the victims. Of the nearly 19,000 people who died in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, nearly 3,300 were residents of the coastal town of Ishinomaki. About 22,000 lost their homes.

The tragedy of Ishinomaki has been repeated across the shoreline, where communities are still trying to rebuild, mourning lost lives and worried about the future, as the younger generation leaves in droves. Thousands of people are still living in temporary housing and many are dependent on aid for food and clothing.

William, who earlier visited more lively and modern spots in Tokyo, had insisted that his first ever trip to Japan include the tsunami-stricken region.

Teruko Sekiguchi, a 42-year-old housewife and Ishinomaki resident, waited for the prince’s arrival on top of the hill in the cold rain for more than hour. She was touched he would come all the way out to the disaster region.

He is gorgeous. You can feel his kindness,” she said.

When the tsunami hit, Sekiguchi fled to a nearby junior high school and waited for a week, feeling miserable, not even knowing whether her husband, a schoolteacher, had survived. When he finally came to find her, she was so overjoyed she just cried and couldn’t even walk toward him, she recalled. Although the area below the hill, previously filled with small homes, has been cleaned of debris, no one will live there again. Plans are still being studied to turn it into a park.

It’s like the area has been finally cleaned up enough into a white canvas so we can start painting on it,” said Kimio Abe, who heads his own company installing heating and air conditioning.

Abe was also among the crowd of about 80 people waiting on hilltop for the prince. Abe’s home, near the hill, was also half destroyed by the tsunami, but he fixed it up and still lives in one room with his wife.

Earlier in the day, William visited a local newspaper, which had produced handwritten newsletters right after the tsunami to keep communication going.

William wanted to know what the journalists had done, what the rescue operations was like, as well as the personal background of Hiroyuki Takeuchi, a journalist at the Ishinomaki Hibi newspaper.

It remains with you forever. You remember where you were. It must have been unbelievably terrifying for you and all the others,” William told Takeuchi.

Akemi Solloway, founder of the London-based Aid for Japan, which supports tsunami orphans, said William’s visit will not only provide a morale boost for the residents, but also reassurance that their plight has not been forgotten and renewed international awareness of their daily struggles.

William later went to another tsunami-hit coastal town, Onagawa, welcomed by a traditional lion dance to the cheerful music of wooden flutes and drums.

At a shopping area that sold local goods by storekeepers trying to turn their lives around, he rang a bell that survived the tsunami, called the “Chime of Hope.”

The prince met a couple whose children died in the tsunami. He offered them his sympathy and said that he, too, had lost a member of his family in a tragic way, NHK reported. Local children presented him with a paper crane at Hiyoriyama Park in Ishinomaki.

William returned by bullet train to Tokyo and later Sunday left on a visit to Beijing.

William will leave Japan for China on Sunday night.

A Bathing Ape x Kiehl’s 2015 Tohoku Charity Project

A Bathing Ape collaborates with Kiehl’s to produce a limited edition moisturizing cream. The product itself is the “Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream,” the skincare line’s top-selling lotion, featuring a special BAPE Camo label. 100% of the revenue generated will be donated to the NPO Corporation, which stands to support the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake by planting cherry blossom trees in the Tōhoku district of Japan.

You can purchase the A Bathing Ape x Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream at Kiehl’s on February 6 in two sizes: a 49 g jar for $32 USD and a 123 g jar for $56 USD.

 

National Geographic: Solar panels floating on water will power Japan’s homes

Picture of a similar floating solar plant

Floating solar arrays take advantage of open water where land space is constrained.

National Geographic (by Bryan Lufkin):

Nowadays, bodies of water aren’t necessarily something to build around—they’re something to build on. They sport not just landfills and man-made beaches but also, in a nascent global trend, massive solar power plants.

Clean energy companies are turning to lakes, wetlands, ponds, and canals as building grounds for sunlight-slurping photovoltaic panels. So far, floating solar structures have been announced in, among other countries, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Italy.

The biggest floating plant, in terms of output, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan‘s Yamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. When completed in March 2016, it will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households. It will also offset nearly 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. (Since the EPA estimates a typical car releases 4.7 tons of CO2 annually, that’s about 1,700 cars’ worth of emissions.)

The Yamakura Dam project is a collaboration by Kyocera (a Kyoto-headquartered electronics manufacturer), Ciel et Terre (a French company that designs, finances, and operates photovoltaic installations), and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation.

So, why build solar panels on water instead of just building them on land? Placing the panels on a lake or reservoir frees up surrounding land for agricultural use, conservation, or other development. With these benefits, though, come challenges.

Solar Enters New Territory

Overall, this is a very interesting idea. If successful, it will bring a huge impact,” says Yang Yang, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in photovoltaic solar panels. “However, I do have concerns of its safety against storms and other natural disasters, not to mention corrosion.”

Unlike a solar installation on the ground or mounted on a rooftop, floating solar energy plants present relatively new difficulties. For one thing, everything needs to be waterproofed, including the panels and wiring. Plus, a giant, artificial contraption can’t just be dropped into a local water supply without certain precautions, such as adherence to regulations on water quality—a relevant concern, particularly if the structure starts to weather away.

That is one reason we chose Ciel et Terre’s floating platforms, which are 100 percent recyclable and made of high-density polyethylene that can withstand ultraviolet rays and corrosion,” says Ichiro Ikeda, general manager of Kyocera’s solar energy marketing division.

Another obstacle? Japan’s omnipresent threat of natural disasters. In addition to typhoons, the country is a global hot spot for earthquakes, landslides, and tidal waves.

Aerial view of the Yamakura Dam

The planned floating solar array for Japan would sit atop the Yamakura Dam, east of Tokyo.

To make sure the platforms could withstand the whims of Mother Nature, Ciel et Terre’s research and development team brought in the big guns: a wind tunnel at Onera, the French aerospace lab. The company’s patented Hydrelio system—those polyethylene “frames” that cradle the solar panels—was subjected to very high wind conditions that matched hurricane speeds. The system resisted winds of up to 118 miles per hour.

Why Japan Could Be the Perfect Spot

Given its weather, why build floating solar panels in the storm-filled, Ring of Fire-hugging Land of the Rising Sun? The reason: Many nations could benefit from floating solar power. And Japan is their poster child.

The largely mountainous archipelago of Japan suffers from a lack of usable land, meaning there’s less room for anything to be built, let alone a large-scale solar plant. However, the nation is rich in reservoirs, since it has a sprawling rice industry to irrigate, so more solar energy companies in Japan are favoring liquid over land for construction sites. Suddenly, inaccessible terrain becomes accessible.

Kyocera’s Ikeda says available land in Japan is especially hard to come by these days, as the number of ground-based solar plants in the country has skyrocketed in the past few years.

But, he added, “the country has many reservoirs for agricultural and flood-control purposes. There is great potential in carrying out solar power generation on these water surfaces.”

In Japan’s case, Ciel et Terre says that the region’s frequent seismic fits aren’t cause for concern, either. In fact, they illustrate another benefit that floating solar panels have over their terrestrial counterparts, the company says.

Earthquakes have no impacts on the floating photovoltaic system, which has no foundation and an adequate anchoring system that ensures its stability,” says Eva Pauly, international business manager at Ciel et Terre. “That’s a big advantage in a country like Japan.”

Solar’s Potential Ecological Impact

Floating solar panel manufacturers hope their creations replace more controversial energy sources.

Japan needs new, independent, renewable energy sources after the Fukushima disaster,” says Pauly. “The country needs more independent sources of electricity after shutting down the nuclear power and relying heavily on imported liquid gas.”

This up-and-coming aquatic alternative impacts organisms living in the water, though. The structure stymies sunlight penetration, slowly making the water cooler and darker. This can halt algae growth, for example, which Ciel et Terre project manager Lise Mesnager says “could be either positive or negative.” If there’s too much algae in the water, the shadow-casting floating panels might be beneficial; if the water harbors endangered species, they could harm them.

It is really important for the operator to have a good idea of what kind of species can be found in the water body,” Mesnager says.

Since companies must follow local environmental rules, these solar plants are usually in the center of the water, away from banks rich with flora and fauna. Plus, companies might prefer building in man-made reservoirs instead of natural ones, as the chances of harming the area’s biodiversity are smaller.

Could the Future Include Salt Water?

More than three-quarters of our planet is ocean, which might present alternative energy companies a blank canvas on which to dot more buoyant energy farms. But moving floating panels to the open sea is still in the future. Kyocera’s Ikeda says it would bring up a whole new realm of issues, from waves to changing water levels, which could lead to damage and disrupted operations.

Ciel et Terre is experimenting with salt water-friendly systems in Thailand, but ocean-based plants might be impractical, as offshore installations are costly, and it’s more logical to produce electricity closer to where it’ll be used.

For now, companies are aiming to build floating energy sources that conserve limited space, are cheaper than solar panels on terra firma, and are, above all, efficient. Ciel et Terre says that since its frames keep Kyocera’s solar panels cool, the floating plant could generate up to 20 percent more energy than a typical ground system does.

The Yamakura Dam project might be the world’s biggest floating solar plant, but it wasn’t the first-and it almost certainly won’t be the last.

 

Japanese politicians propose officially designating March 11 as Great East Japan Disaster Day

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RocketNews 24:

This coming spring will mark four years since the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. While that’s not nearly long enough for the those who experienced the tragedy first-hand to forget about the destruction, sadness, and fear, some politicians are concerned that in time memories will fade, which is why a bill is being introduced in the Japanese Diet to establish March 11 as an official day of remembrance of the disaster.

The Liberal Democratic Party has announced its intention to recommend that March 11 be officially known as Great East Japan Disaster Day. The initiative is being spearheaded by LDP representatives from Tohoku, Japan’s northeastern region which suffered the heaviest damage from the earthquake and tsunami. In particular, Shinichi Suzuki and Takumi Nemoto, representatives from Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures, respectively, are seen as champions of the cause.

While the bill will not seek to establish March 11 as a national holiday, the lawmakers nevertheless feel the designation is important to raise awareness about the necessity of disaster preparedness, prevent the events from fading from public consciousness, and to make sure future generations understand what the country experienced.

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The Liberal Democratic Party had begun work on presenting the proposal back in fall this year, but its progress was derailed by the dissolution of the Diet and subsequent snap elections. Backers now plan to formally introduce the bill at the next regular session of the Diet, to be held in January, and are currently reaching out to representatives from other parties in order to complete the process by March 11 of 2015.

Japanese scientist predicts another major earthquake in Japan by 2017

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RocketNews 24:

 

According to Japanese scientists, Japan might be in for another big one.

Dr. Masaaki Kimura, a seismologist who reportedly predicted the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, recently appeared on Japanese TV to share his theory about the next major earthquake to strike Japan. Based on his estimates, the quake will occur by 2017 and will be of similar magnitude to 2011’s. Similarly, astronomer Yoshio Kushida continues to insist that a big quake is not too far away. Keep reading to find out more about their respective theories and which specific areas of Japan they’ve got on the radar.

For over 25 years now, legendary Japanese actor Beat Takeshi has hosted a variety show called Beat Takeshi’s TV TackleThe show takes the form of a panel discussion in which guests are invited to share their opinions and debate about different topics, which are typically of a political nature.  

On the July 21 broadcast of the show, several prominent scientists appeared to discuss their ideas regarding future seismic activity in Japan, including the possibility of another major earthquake. The end result of their discussion? The question is not so much if, butwhen, another major quake will occur.

Dr. Masaaki Kimura, an Emeritus Professor of submarine geology and a seismologist at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa Prefecture, was eager to share his thoughts regarding the matter. His predictions are based on observations of regions in Japan where there have not yet been any major earthquakes, but where smaller ones occur frequently; he calls such regions “earthquake eyes” (地震の目). He predicted the location of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake using the same theory four years before it occurred, and although he presented his findings before the Pacific Science Congress in Japan, no one endorsed his ideas at the time.

 

▼Seismic activity off the coast of northern Japan on March 11, 2011

Map_of_Sendai_Earthquake_2011

Perhaps that’s an indication that Dr. Kimura will carry more clout this time around, because by his predictions another major quake is set to hit Japan by 2017 (his actual calculation was the year 2012, plus or minus five years). Furthermore, he anticipates that its epicenter will be in the Izu Islands, a volcanic island chain stretching south from the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture (the islands themselves are governed by Tokyo Prefecture). As for its strength, Dr. Kimura claims it will be of similar magnitude to the 2011 quake, which puts it in the 9.0 class of the moment magnitude scale used for measuring the size of earthquakes. He adds, however, that any damage caused by the quake won’t be nearly as costly as any damage caused by a resulting tsunami.

 

▼The Izu Islands

Map_of_Izu_Islands

To spice things up a bit, the program also invited Yoshio Kushida, a self-taught astronomer, to the show to share his opinions. Mr. Kushida has gained a sort of infamy in Japan due to his frequent predictions of an impending major earthquake, which he posits by studying seismic waves. Based on past events, we’ve got reason not to take Kushida too seriously, but you never know…

Mr. Kushida has been predicting a major earthquake in Japan’s Kansai region (to the south–Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, etc.); more specifically, near Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. He says that abnormal FM rays have been evident since 2008, and the quake could hit on November 11 of this year, plus or minus a few days, at the earliest. In addition, it should be around a 7.8 on the magnitude scale.

But wait, there’s more! Dr. Robert Geller, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Tokyo, was also in attendance on the show. He opposed both Dr. Kimura’s and Mr. Kushida’s ideas, asserting that they should publish scientific articles and present them before an academic committee so people can verify the legitimacy of their claims. It sure sounds like the show achieved its objective of getting in some good debate action!

Regardless of whose theory will prove to be most accurate, what it all comes down to is that there is no foolproof way to predict an earthquake, not even a major one akin to the 2011Tohoku disaster. If you live in Japan, you can take precautionary measures by packing yourself a simple earthquake kit and signing up for the Earthquake Early Warning system issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency to get preemptive alerts on your mobile phone when an earthquake is detected. It’s a bit disconcerting when everyone’s phones start beeping in the same room, but believe us, better that than to be caught completely unawares when the tremor hits only seconds later.

If you can read Japanese, you might also be interested in visiting Dr. Kimura’s homepage, where you can follow his latest work.