The world has been transfixed watching the aftermath of a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake which hit the Sendai area of Japan on March 11, 2011. Huge tsunamis triggered by the earthquake, caused widespread property destruction, thousands of human casualties, and severely damaged a nuclear power plant, where recovery efforts are continuing.
Rescue and recovery efforts for earthquake and tsunami victims were subsequently complicated by a late winter storm, which brought harsh cold temperatures and snow to the northern regions of the island of Honshu. The cold air made life considerably more difficult for both disaster victims and rescue personnel. The impact of this cold air flowing from Siberia is seen in Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) temperature data, showing the 13° C temperature drop occuring on March 15 (Figure 1). Snowfall from the storm occurred mostly in the mountain areas west of Sendai on March 15 and 16 (Figures 2 and 3).
Figure 1. Time series of AIRS surface air temperature over the Sendai area, showing the ~13° C temperature decline due to a cold front and winter storm.
Figure 2. Snowfall over the island of Honshu, March 15, 2011.
Figure 3. Snowfall over the island of Honshu, March 15-16, 2011.
This weather event was also observed in data acquired by the global merged IR data archived at the GES DISC. Figure 4 shows the winter storm over the northern region of the island of Honshu. The global merged IR data can be used to track storm movement across the Pacific Ocean (Figure 5).
[Links to the data sources are provided below the animations.]
Figure 4. Global merged IR animation of clouds associated with the winter storm that affected the Sendai earthquake region on March 15, 2011.
Figure 5. Global merged IR animation of clouds associated with the winter storm, showing the northern Pacific Ocean basin. The movement of weather systems over the Pacific which brought heavy rains to California on in mid-March is also seen in this animation.
For access to the data used for the images in this article, visit:
AIRS Level 3 daily data in Giovanni: http://gdata1.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/daac-bin/G3/gui.cgi?instance_id=AIRS_Level3Daily
Global merged IR data: http://disc.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/HDAT
Experimental near-real-time TRMM multi-sensor precipitation analysis (TMPA-RT) data: