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What caused Japan’s 2011 tsunami? A thin layer of clay on ocean’s floor

map of western rim of Pacific Ocean

An extremely thin layer of clay sediment below the ocean floor is a primary cause of the huge tsunami associated with the 2011 Japan earthquake, according to research by an international team of scientists that include a Texas A&M University professor.

Fred Chester, holder of the David Bullock Harris Chair in geology at Texas A&M and one of the country’s leading experts on the structure of seismic faults, helped author three papers on the March 11, 2011 quake that appear in the current issue of Science magazine.