12 March 2011

Will the Japan 2011 tsunami affect Singapore?

Singapore was shielded by the Philippines from the tsunami arising from the massive earthquake in Japan, explained a Straits Times article today.
NOAA forecasting map from The Map Room
with lots more links to maps of the quake and the tsunami.

The magnitude 8.9 earthquake that struck 400km off Tokyo yesterday is said to be among the largest quakes of all time. Most of the force moved north-west towards the Japanese coast, or south-east towards South America.

Is Singapore immune from tsunamis?

The article added: However, Singapore could potentially be affected by earthquakes closer to home. Experts say, the Manila Trench would be the most likely place for a quake tsunami that affects Singapore to originate from. But models predict that any impact on Singapore would be restricted to a 0.8m rise in water levels, because the South China Sea is shallow to begin with. from Singapore shielded from tsunami waves by Lester Kok and Grace Chua, Straits Times 12 Mar 11.

In Dec 2008, a Straits Times article said an NUS-NTU study in 2006 found that it would take an earthquake, in Indonesian or Philippine waters, measuring about 9.0 on the Richter scale to generate a tsunami powerful enough to reach Singapore. Even then, it would take 10 hours before the first waves hit. The waves would be no more than 0.7m above the average sea level, reaching no more than 50m inland and at speeds of half a metre per second - slower than the speed of a normal tide, which is 1m to 2m per second. from Singapore faces negligible tsunami risks Study shows that even if waves hit island, they will not be life threatening, by Liaw Wy-Cin, Straits Times 17 Dec 08.

In Sep 2008, AFP reported an expert saying that Singapore is not completely immune from tsunamis: expert.
Singapore can be hit by a tsunami generated from three locations and the waves could damage key coastal infrastructure without being too high, said Professor Wong Poh Poh of the National University of Singapore geography department.

"We don't need 10 metres. The problem with Singapore is... we have a lot of infrastructure on the coast. All you need is a very low wave to just come in and hit certain areas," he said.

"Changi Airport will be very vulnerable," he said, adding the man-made island of Jurong which houses a sprawling petrochemical complex is also at risk, and urged the government to commission a study on tsunamis.

What can be done to minimise damage caused by quakes and tsunami?

The UN yesterday reiterated that studies show early warning systems and a drive to protect mangroves and coral reefs as buffers to waves are among ways to safeguard coasts at risk from tsunamis and storm surges. Japan's devastating tsunami on Friday was caused by a quake beyond human control but efforts to limit impacts from more powerful cyclones or a rise in world sea levels, blamed on human emissions of greenhouse gases, can also help lessen damage. from Warnings, reefs lessen tsunamis, storms impact Reuters 11 Mar 11

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