Earthquake data visualization shows ground motion in real time



On 11 March 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake shattered the seabed off the eastern coast of Japan's Honshu Island. Visualizations of scientific data showing the peaks of a seismograph or maps overlain with the locations and magnitudes of the earthquake and its numerous aftershocks were brought out to help explain the devastation to the public. While dramatic, such displays can be difficult for the public to interpret clearly because people have trouble trying to picture what the recordings of a seismograph might look like on the ground or because they have trouble understanding the logarithmic relationship between earthquake magnitude and energy. Drawing on the three-dimensional position records of a dense web of high-frequency GPS ground receiver stations, Grapenthin and Freymueller developed an animation of the abrupt horizontal and vertical motions that pulled parts of the country more than 4 meters to the east and sank large portions of its eastern shore more than half a meter into the sea.