What is the Japan Trench?


Quick Answer

The Japan Trench is a submarine trench. It is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire in the North Pacific Ocean, roughly to the northeast of the Japanese islands.

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Full Answer

The Japan Trench is about 500 miles (or 800 kilometers) long and about 29,500 feet in depth at its deepest point. The trench runs from the Bonin Islands to the Kuril Islands, and extends into the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench to the north and the Izu-Ogasawara Trench to the south. The Pacific plate moves beneath the North American plate along the length of the trench.

Tectonic plate movement along the trench has been responsible for a number of earthquakes and tsunamis in northern Japan. The T?hoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, which had a magnitude of 9.0 and caused a tremendous amount of damage that led to the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, was caused by the largest fault slip ever recorded occurring in the Japan Trench. The fault is estimated to have slipped by about 164 feet or 50 meters, which is roughly double the estimated distance of slippage in the 9.1 magnitude Sumatra earthquake of 2004. The Japan Trench has seen a total of nine events of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973.

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