Campus news

Media Advisory: Researchers return from Japan, share assessment of quake and tsunami damage

By Sarah Yang

ATTENTION: Reporters covering engineering, disaster response


A public briefing at the University of California, Berkeley, presenting the preliminary results of a U.S. research team’s reconnaissance trip to Japan to survey damage from the 9.0 magnitude Tohoku earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the team was comprised of experts in structural engineering, tsunamis, geotechnical engineering, and the maintenance and recovery of such lifelines as gas pipes, electrical systems and bridges. Upon arrival, the U.S. team joined Japanese researchers from several universities there.

“Despite the intensity of the Tohoku quake, the degree of damage due to ground-shaking in Japan was less than in the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in California,” said Stephen Mahin, UC Berkeley professor of civil and environmental engineering, director of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) and lead investigator of the U.S. research team. “The damage from the tsunami was far worse than we imagined.”

The briefing is sponsored by PEER, a multi-institutional research and education center headquartered at UC Berkeley, along with the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, both research organizations that seek to reduce the impact of catastrophic events such as earthquakes and floods.


9-11 a.m. Thursday, April 28. The briefing will be webcast live at mms:// (the link will become active 15 minutes before the briefing). Videos of the presentations will be archived on PEER’s YouTube account .


Auditorium in Room 310, Sutardja Dai Hall (CITRIS Building), UC Berkeley. Directions to the building are online here .


In addition to Stephen Mahin, other members of the research team scheduled to speak at the briefing include:

  • Jonathan Stewart , professor of geotechnical engineering at UCLA
  • Harry Yeh , professor of coastal and ocean engineering at Oregon State University
  • Greg Deierlein , professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University
  • Charles Scawthorn , visiting research engineer at PEER
  • Carlos Cabrera , risk modeler at RMS, a risk analysis and management firm


The U.S. field investigation team traveled to Japan in mid-April at the invitation of the Science Council of Japan. They were charged with getting a broad overview of the effects of the March 11 disaster and identifying research needs and opportunities that include collaboration with investigators in Japan.