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What Did the Japan Earthquake Sound Like?

What Did the Japan Earthquake Sound Like?

The Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics (LAB), a unit of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), directed by Professor Michel André, has recorded the sound of the 9.0 earthquake that shook Japan last Friday, March 11. You can hear the recording via the Listening to the Deep Ocean Environment (LIDO); the project makes it possible for the public to, as it were, ‘witness’ the earthquake in real time, and to follow its evolution in the form of aftershocks.

According to Professor Andre, LIDO is the first project ever to record deep-sea sounds in real time. The LIDO project also seeks to determine how artificial sounds affect the marine environment and its denizens, such as whales.

Here’s the recording on the LIDO site. Recordings of the earthquake and of two aftershocks can be heard.

The LIDO system collects recordings automatically of the acoustic events detected. These sounds are then identified and classified as being of biological or human-made origin. Cetaceans are affected by noise and certainly by such as was generated by the March 11 earthquake; changes in their behavior can be an indicator of seismic activity.

Science Daily explains more about LIDO: 

The system can be used to listen simultaneously to what is happening at different observatories. On March 11, 2011, at 2:45 p.m. Japanese local time, the LIDO system acoustically detected and recorded the earthquake at JAMSTEC observatories located off the coast off Kushiro and Hatsushima. The recording is available on the LIDO website The sound of the earthquake and two aftershocks registered by these two Japanese observatories is available in the “Sound Library” section of the website (under “Earthquakes”). The data published there have been accelerated 16 times so that they can be audible to human ears. In the “Listen on Site” section of the same website, visitors can also listen to, and view, a live stream of the acoustic data in which aftershocks are continuously perceptible. 

The spectrograms shown on the website reflect, both acoustically and visually, the intensity and energy distribution of the earthquake sound. The images illustrate the frequency and intensity of the sound by means of a spectrum of colors (with red and yellow being the most intense).


The recording was made by a network of underwater observatories belonging to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC). Recordings were made using hydrophones located on either side of the earthquake epicenter, close to the Japanese island of Hatsushima. 


Previous Care2 Coverage

Radiation Plume Could Reach US By Friday: 5 Ways To Protect Your

Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Deepens 

UPDATE: More Ways You Can Help Japan 

What We Need To Learn From The Japanese Earthquake

6 Important Questions About The Japanse Nuclear Crisis

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Photo by Wckd79.

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1:40PM PDT on Oct 24, 2012


6:14PM PDT on Mar 30, 2011

March 11, 2011, I had a noon lunch in Ginza ( Tokyo) and after took a walk towards Tsukji, I got on the Hanzoman line subway and got off in Kayobacho. We had several " small" quakes that morning and I was feeling " off". This is what NO ONE can describe or record > When the actual quake hit Tokyo, I was in an underground subway station. The earth cracked, it sounds just like a HUGE CRACKING, the earth moves, you lose balance, you are confused as the earth beneath you is like liquid. I jumped the turnstile and sprinted up 2 flights of stairs to the street. I stood in Kayabacho with thousands of people and watched huge buildings swaying like trees in the wind. On and on, quake after quake ( people who call these aftershocks should have to live through them! they are EARTHQUAKES) all in all Japan has had over 800+ earthquakes since March 11. We are praying for those in the North. The Tsunami was far more devastating and for me more frightening. I am here for now but will at some point return to the US. I will never forget standing in the street, thousands of people, not a sound, no screaming, no pushing, just calm and quiet. I love Japan! Please support one of the many relief efforts. The only sound I want to hear is the sound of us all as one saying " No more Nukes!" . Peace LOVE and understanding! thanks!

10:08AM PDT on Mar 27, 2011

I've been in a dozen earthquakes in Japan. It sounds like you're watching the movie 2012 in the movie theatre. It roars and rumbles. And then there was the piercing scream of my ex-husband crying like a little girl!

8:01PM PDT on Mar 25, 2011

Thanks for sharing (:

8:58PM PDT on Mar 20, 2011


1:07PM PDT on Mar 19, 2011

Interesting to know more about what the Japanese went through. Hoping all goes well for them. Remember it is snowing and so many are homeless. We all need to contribute whatever we can.

8:49PM PDT on Mar 18, 2011

It would be awesome for those who are not experiencing it but terrible for thpse who are experiencing it.

8:34PM PDT on Mar 18, 2011

thanks for sharing.

6:52PM PDT on Mar 18, 2011

My husband was in the Christchurch earthquake, attending the Urology Conference there.
A friend lived in Japan for a year and experienced 7 earthquakes while there (ordinary experience for Japan). She was also near a railway station.

Both say an approaching earthquake sounds like an approaching train. Then there is a loud bang and the earth shakes violently (for varying lengths of time).
Passing trains actuallybegan to freak her out as she wasn't sure at first if it was train or quake.
She has not been able to contact friends in Japan and is very worried.

3:21PM PDT on Mar 18, 2011

This was awesome to be able to hear the earthquake although to be there would be a different story. From what I have read they have experienced many earthquakes but never of this magnitude,and never a tsunami like this. The noise from the tsunami was absolutely horrific. I feel deeply sorry for the people.

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