Thursday 14 December 2023

Did the massive X-Class Flare delivered by the equally massive Sunspot 1166 cause the magnitude 9.1 Great Honshu Earthquake in Japan? Which caused the deaths of more than 20,000 people and the record number of aftershocks in one month, 2,880!

An SH-60F helicopter assigned to the Chargers of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 14 from Naval Air Facility Atsugi flies over the port of Sendai to deliver food to survivors after a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami, credit Wikipedia.

March 2022 delivered the 3rd biggest earthquake ever recorded when a magnitude 9.1 rocked The Tōhoku region of North East Japan. The month of March 2011 also recorded the highest number of major quakes, (mag 6 or higher), however, this was mainly due to the incredible amount of large aftershocks caused by the mag 9.1 mega quake.

I have often wondered what could have caused the massive tectonic collapse which would go on to cause so much damage and death. Was there any geological reason for such an unusual outburst of concentrated seismic activity? NASA has always claimed our Sun not only affected our weather but also influenced seismic and volcanic activity here on Earth! Could there be a clue?

Nine days before the mega quake off the East coast of Japan, a solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field during the early hours of March 1st. The impact sparked a geomagnetic storm that was, at first, minor, but the storm intensified throughout the day. According to SDO, a large Coronal Hole had opened up on our Sun and was facing Earth. Solar wind stream flowing from the coronal hole was expected to reach Earth on March 3rd or 4th. NASA wasn't expecting any large solar flares.

On March 3rd claimed that although our Sun was almost sunspot-less, the primary dark core of sunspot 1164 was three times wider than Earth itself and growing. Earth was still inside a solar wind stream flowing from the large coronal hole in the sun, however, the heavens were reasonably quiet. 

March 4: Multiple flares erupted behind the sun's eastern limb. NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft detected a shadowy shock wave in the sun's atmosphere while the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) recorded at least two plasma clouds billowing into space. These blasts were not Earth-directed, but future blasts could be geoeffective as the active zone would turn toward our planet in the days ahead. A high-speed solar wind stream was buffeting Earth's magnetic field, however, and lighting up the Arctic Circle with auroras.

March 5: reported, that Sunspots 1164 and 1166 were so large, that people were noticing them at sunrise and sunset when the sun was dimmed by clouds and haze. The dark cores of these regions were many times wider than Earth, so they were very conspicuous even from a distance of 93 million miles. A coronal mass ejection (CME) was also en route to Earth, due to arrive on March 6th. The CME was slow-moving and not especially massive. Nevertheless, its arrival could provoke geomagnetic storms around the Arctic Circle. (and seismic activity?)

March 6: Two major quakes, (mag 6 or higher) were recorded on this day. A mag 6.5 in the South Sandwich Islands region and a mag 6.3 in Peru. According to NASA, Sunspot 1164 had a delta-class magnetic field that harbours energy for X-class flares.

March 7: Hotting up—The Smithsonian volcano database confirmed the Telica volcano in Nicaragua had erupted. A magnitude 6.3 major quake, (mag 6 or higher) had rocked the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. SDO/NASA reported two very strong M3-class solar flares had been ejected from giant Sunspot 1166 and 1164, producing an M3-class solar flare and a bright coronal mass ejection (CME). The CME was not squarely directed at Earth. Nevertheless, the cloud would probably deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field on March 9th or 10th, possibly sparking polar geomagnetic storms. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. 

March 8: Spaceweather reported a coronal mass ejection (CME) had exploded from the vicinity of massive Sunspot 1164 during the late hours of March 7th. It lept away from the sun traveling some 2200 km/s, making it the fastest CME since Sept. 2005. This CME and at least one other could brush against Earth's magnetic field on March 9th or 10th. 

D-DAY—March 9: Early morning—03:45 UTC, A very shallow, powerful magnitude 7.3 rocks the Japanese North East coast, and the Kuril, Kamkatcha tectonic plate slips. . . Around 19:15 UTC time a very shallow aftershock, mag 6.0 shook the North Eastern coast of Japan. . . Just over 3 hours later another very shallow aftershock, mag 6.0 shook the same area. . . This was followed by another large aftershock 6.5 off the Japanese coast, and less than 30 seconds later a mag 6.4, also shallow, rocked Papua New Guinea thousands of km away. This was an extremely busy day for major quakes, (mag 6 or higher) but nothing to indicate the horrors to come. However, not to be outdone our sun suddenly unleashed a powerful Class X1.5 solar flare, only the second in four years! The solar flare erupted at (2323 GMT), just one hour later than the last two major quakes. The mega sun storm registered as a Class X1.5 event– one of the most powerful types of flares – and erupted from a region on the sun near the massive sunspot called 1166.

Above is a photo of our Sun from NASA showing Sunspot 1166 before its X-class flare on March 9th, 2011! The X-class flare was only the second in the last four years.

March 10: A magnitude 6.5 - 178 km NNE of Gili Air, struck Indonesia and March 2011 was proving to be a very busy month for major quakes with 10 in 10 days—A total of 58 aftershocks were recorded off the East coast of Japan, but, none were higher than magnitude 5.9. Our magnetosphere was unsettled but generally space weather was quiet.

March 11—The Big One!  At 06:46, UTC, USGS reported a magnitude of 9.1 - had rattled the Northern Hemisphere, it was the Great Tohoku Earthquake, in Japan. As the day rolled on the quakes kept coming, with 44 aftershocks all mag 6 or higher. A mag 7.9 and a mag 7.7 will give you an understanding of the power of some of these aftershocks. Apart from the 44 major aftershocks, an incredible 550 were recorded from lower magnitudes, mag 2.5 to mag 5.9 which must surely be some kind of a record. Elsewhere the Karangateng volcano erupted in Indonesia. According to USGS Data, another, 19 major aftershocks, mag 6 or higher rocked the Eastern Japanese coastline before the month was out, all in all, 2,880 aftershocks were recorded in the month after the initial mag 9.1, with 90 of them being mag 6 or higher, see USGS image below.


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