Tohoku earthquake shook the ionosphere

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Abstract

[1] The giant 11 March 2011 magnitude 9 Tohoku earthquake not only shook the Earth and caused devastating tsunamis but also rattled the ionosphere, according to a new study. The surface seismic waves and tsunamis triggered waves in the atmosphere. These atmospheric waves propagated upward into the ionosphere, creating ripples in ionized gas nearly 350 kilometers above the Earth. Liu et al. measured these disturbances, called seismotraveling ionospheric disturbances (STID), using GPS receivers in Japan. The first disturbance appeared as a disk-shaped increase in electron density in the ionosphere about 7 minutes after the earthquake. Sequences of concentric waves of increased electron density then traveled from the STID center. Similar ionospheric disturbances have been observed following other earthquakes, but these were the largest ever seen, the authors report. (Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics, doi:10.1029/2011JA016761, 2011)

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