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Smoke and Turbidity – Sendai, Japan

We’ve done our own processing on a NASA / MODIS satellite image showing a large smoke plume coming from the port city of Sendai. The image was taken from the Aqua satellite at 12:10 pm local time on March 12. The magnitude 8.9 quake struck at 2:46 pm local time on March 11, and tsunami waves crashed ashore along the northeastern coast of Japan shortly after.

The dark brown smoke plume stretches to the southeast, reaching at least 115 kilometers (73 miles) over the ocean.

Notice the bright turquoise patterns in the water; this is turbidity, quite possibly sand stirred up from the seafloor by the scouring action of the massive waves, and debris and sediment from flooded coastal areas dragged out to sea as the waves receded. Clouds and snow are bright white in this image, processed to enhance the smoke and turbidity:

Earthquake and Tsunami – Sendai, Japan

The Ring of Fire strikes again.

We’re starting to see satellite imagery of the damage caused by the massive earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck northeastern Japan yesterday (this aerial video shows the waves approaching shore, and the terrifying destruction as they sweep through coastal towns). Some resources:

DigitalGlobe has a Flickr gallery of high-resolution images and produced a cursory analysis (PDF).

High-resolution satellite image showing shipping containers scattered by the tsunami in the port of Sendai, March 12, 2011. Image courtesy of DigitalGlobe.

The MODIS imaging team’s website at NASA now has a Japan Earthquake Project page. The low-resolution MODIS sytem captured an image at about noon local time on March 12, showing a large plume of smoke blowing out to sea from Sendai. Before-and-after images give a glimpse through the clouds of broad coastal flooding as of 10am local time yesterday.

Please submit a comment if you run across other useful sources of satellite imagery for this event.