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03/11/2011 19:45:00

8.9 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Off Coast of Japan

At a press conference held at Caltech this morning, USGS and Caltech seismologists reported on the latest details of the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit off the coast of Japan last night. The quake sent a 30-foot tidal wave onto the east coast of the island and triggered tsunami watches and warnings throughout much of the Pacific.

In Northern California, waves and strong currents from the tsunami have caused coastal damage in Crescent City and Santa Cruz, and six-foot waves were reported in Morro Bay on the central coast.

USGS/Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones said that more surges of high waves are expected since a tsunami is not a singular event, but a series of waves.

She also reported that the earthquake must have been caused on a very long fault—at least 300 or 400 miles long. USGS scientists have confirmed that the earthquake was the fifth largest in world since 1900. Jones said a friend who was in Tokyo for a tsunami planning meeting noted the shaking after the initial shock lasted for about five minutes. For detailed information on the quake, go to the USGS website.

Written by Katie Neith