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*gasp*

A down note.

So, I didn't intend to start the new year on a down note, but this just blew me away (and apologies to those of you who read slashdot).

Check out before and after satellite photos of areas hit by the tsunami. Hearing about individual people and the hell they've gone through is bad enough, but actually seeing how this thing actually changed the shape of the Earth itself and knowing that it did it all in a few seconds/minutes is just mindboggling.

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yeah, i keep thinking about how hurricane andrew (which is the largest natural disaster i've been through) swept through just a few states, and we knew days ahead of time... even hurricane ivan didn't kill as many people, terrible as it was. i can't really wrap my mind around the magnitude of this tsunami. it remains mostly nameless, underscoring the mysteriousness and surprise with which it hit. i felt compelled to donate to oxfam & the red cross.

i love the satellite imagery readily available these days. it's amazing to actually see the power of "mother nature" and what it can do to this planet of ours.
Yeah, this thing is just so completely out of any kind of scale that I had for a natural disaster that I have a hard time grasping it.

I think that's why the pictures were especially amazing. Given what I do for a living, I have a good idea of how much work it really takes to move dirt and build and tear things down so knowing that and seeing what happened in seconds is just astonishing. Even hurricanes and tornados don't have that kind of destructive path, let alone deathtoll.

Then you hear things like 500mph waves etc... and I find myself thinking: "I can't picture what something moving at 500mph looks like, especially not something that huge"
I was looking for images like this, thank you!
you're welcome
Thanks for sharing that, have been looking for images like that.

But, you know, it gets you wondering...if there were satellites in the area...couldn't we have seen it coming sooner?
tsunamis move at about 500mph. in the mid ocean they're virtually invisible because it's little more than a swell. once they wave starts breaking, it's so close to shore that by that point, a warning would be little more than screaming out "head's up!" Giving some folks further inland time to maybe hang on to something.
Well, scientific types knew that something was going down as soon as the quake happened. I know I've heard of people being advised that tsunamis may be a danger after certain undersear quakes happening.

The really unfortunate thing is that from the moment the quake hit until the tsunami came on shore they only had about a 2 hour window which made it almost impossible to get people out of harms way. That thing went completely over some of the smaller islands and there really wasn't anything people could do. If they didn't have a tsunami-proof shelter (or something built similarly to tornado shelters in the states) they were pretty much SOL from the word go.

Also, I was reading how there have been a number of times when people have received some warning about a tsunami and they've actually gone to the beaches to see it despite the danger. This is where what you said plays a key role since there is no really good way to know/communicate just how massive/dangerous it's going to be until it gets really close to land at which point if you're standing around hoping to see a show, you're going to get quite a show.
Well, some people got the message.
Well some people "saw it coming" as soon as the earthquake happened. Those are monitored so closely that some people knew that a tsunami of some significant size was headed towards all of those people, but ultimately they only had 2 hours to notify and evacuate people and that's just not enough time to do much of anything. Even worse, there have been numerous historic examples of people being warned away from a tsunami area only to flock to the beaches to see it so it's hard to say whether a warning would have actually helped people at that time.

talk about weapons of mass destruction...earth's got us beat. its all very humbling
Yeah, that's the word. Humbling.

I keep thinking about how long various projects like the panama canal, and the HK airport (where they created an island) take and then thinking about what this thing did in seconds and I'm just left in total awe.
and it's just water...something I think most of us take for granted. Bombs, planes...ok, but just water.

oh and Kansai is in Japan :-P
Actually, the "earth" at Banda Aceh didn't move. The lower right section there is what people are referring to there.

If you study it closely, you will see that it is not land at all in that section, but was docks and most likely mangrove trees. They got wiped out.
Actually, if you look closely at most of the pictures that have some noticeable shoreline you can see where the shore has changed (in some cases dramatically).

That's what I was talking about as far as the Earth moving, that thing redrew the coastlines of those and tons of other places in it's path in a matter of seconds.

I keep thinking to all of the civil engineering projects I've studied over the years and how we can do some amazing things in a few months/years and yet that thing came along and changed the shape of the landmass in no time at all. It just puts into perspective the power of that one single event. Contrast that to times when a river floods over the course of a few days and you occasionally see people slowly being carried away and then you have this thing with speeds of 500mph.

I guess ultimately that's the thing, 30ft/500mph waves, 120,000+ dead/missing, I just can't quite fit those numbers to anything I ever thought I would hear in my lifetime for a single natural catastrophe (it's just so easy to think that we're the masters of our planet and it can't throw anything really bad at us anymore)