The Japan Meteorological Agency plans to start issuing alerts in February for long, slow tremors that could affect skyscrapers, as part of its early warnings of strong earthquakes.
The current emergency warning system alerts when a strong earthquake has a magnitude of less than 5 or more on the Japanese scale from 0 to 7 by monitoring certain types of seismic waves.
Alerts for seismic events called “Long Range Ground Movements” will be added to the system. Tall buildings are particularly vulnerable to such prolonged vibrations – even in locations far from the epicenter.
The massive earthquake that struck northeastern Japan in March 2011 caused skyscrapers in Tokyo and Osaka to sway.
The Meteorological Agency has a four-level scale for rating the intensity of such long-term tremors.
It plans to issue emergency alerts for areas where the highest Category 3 and Category 4 severity is expected. The second highest, Category 3, means people will have difficulty staying standing. Early warnings will urge people on the upper floors of tall buildings to take precautionary measures.
Agency officials say Japan has experienced 33 long-range Category 3 or Category 4 earthquakes since 2000.
They say the increase in skyscrapers in urban areas means that more people are likely to be affected by such tremors.
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