- © 2011 by the Seismological Society of America
Online material: Timeline movie
The M 9.0 11 March 2011 Tohoku, Japan, earthquake and associated tsunami near the east coast of the island of Honshu caused tens of thousands of deaths and potentially over one trillion dollars in damage, resulting in one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded. The U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center (USGS NEIC), through its responsibility to respond to all significant global earthquakes as part of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, quickly produced and distributed a suite of earthquake information products to inform emergency responders, the public, the media, and the academic community of the earthquake's potential impact and to provide scientific background for the interpretation of the event's tectonic context and potential for future hazard.
Here we present a timeline of the NEIC response to this devastating earthquake in the context of rapidly evolving information emanating from the global earthquake-response community. The timeline includes both internal and publicly distributed products, the relative timing of which highlights the inherent tradeoffs between the requirement to provide timely alerts and the necessity for accurate, authoritative information. The timeline also documents the iterative and evolutionary nature of the standard products produced by the NEIC and includes a behind-the-scenes look at the decisions, data, and analysis tools that drive our rapid product distribution.
THE USGS NATIONAL EARTHQUAKE INFORMATION CENTER
The NEIC operates a 24/7 service dedicated to the rapid determination of the location and size of all significant earthquakes worldwide and to the immediate dissemination of this information to concerned national and international agencies, scientists, critical facilities, and the general public.
Within its 24/7 operations, the NEIC is constantly staffed by at least two geophysicists who are responsible for reviewing and reporting all magnitude 5 or larger events within 20 minutes of origin time. These analysts also field incoming calls from the …