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Destroyed cars and damaged houses in Suzu (picture from January 4th)

Photo: Uncredited / dpa

The year started with a catastrophe for Japan: the Japanese main island of Honshu was shaken by a severe earthquake of magnitude 7.6 as well as dozens of aftershocks and hit by tidal waves on New Year's Day. This also had consequences for the landscape, as researchers have determined using satellite data.

A NASA map from the beginning of January shows the extent of the shifts. The red areas have been moved up and towards the northwest, it says.

The small dark blue and dark red dots that are scattered across the entire map should be ignored: they are probably false signals that could have arisen, for example, from the shape of buildings.

"The surface has risen by up to four meters in some places on the northern coast of the Noto Peninsula," said Eric Fielding, a geophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, according to the statement. It is said that earthquakes that occur at shallow depths tend to cause more damage. This is because the seismic waves generated by the quake have less time to lose energy on their way.

Analysis by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan also suggests that the earthquake uplifted the land along an 85-kilometer coastline. One of the areas most affected is Minazuki Bay. Here the coastline has shifted seaward by around 200 meters. There would also have been major uplifts in Waijma and Nafune.

The earthquake and the uplift created an additional 4.4 square kilometers of land along the coast of the Nota peninsula, according to the statement. Goto Hideaki, a geomorphologist at Hiroshima University, estimated this together with colleagues from the Association for Japanese Geographers using aerial photographs and satellite data.

Japan lies on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide. Quakes are common in the region. However, due to strict building regulations, among other things, most of them do not leave any damage. The epicenter of the quake in January was in the Noto Peninsula, part of Ishikawa Prefecture. The region was particularly badly affected.