Google Data Trends-World Seeks News on Japan’s Tragedy and Aftermath (Earthquake Word Search, Nuclear Reactor Word Search etc.)


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Written by Harman Bajwa
on March 30, 2011

Even as the world now darkly monitors Japan’s misfortune and beleaguered nuclear crisis, it is to no surprise that almost all of this month’s search terms are related to its devastating events.

Searches for “Japan news”, “nuclear reactor” , “Japan radiation” and related trending terms reached a breakout*  as people from most countries around the globe searched for minute-by-minute information on the continuing natural and humanitarian disaster.

Our very own Google Trends tool reveals as to what’s on the public’s collective mind – by analysing how frequently search terms have appeared in search, and in which geographic regions people have searched for them most.

As the ripple effects from the nuclear power emergency were being felt around the world,   (with news of risking a meltdown in Japan’s nuclear fuel) we noticed that the average worldwide search traffic of the term ‘nuclear reactor’ rose sharply following the news (8-9th March),  peaked 3.5 times more than the month’s average (around March 15-17th ) before cascading down slowly.

Out of all countries New Zealander internet users showed the maximum number of searches relative to the total number of searches done on Google over March. This may be because New Zealand consists of a similar topography as Japan – and its dynamic boundary of islands straddles between the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates, causing rising concerns to a similar fate. Besides, a Tsunami alert was also issued to the country following the 8.9 quake.

The coastline cities of San Francisco and Singapore furthermore showed high earthquake word search and related searches for similar reasons.

Likewise, for the terms “japan radiation” and “nuclear energy” tracking down got back to more or less normal after a spike seen around March 14-15th. Searches for these keywords were almost 400- 500% times more than typical.

The search term “earthquake” was yet again a cause of concern. For instance, six reactors in the U.S. use the same design as Fukushima Daiichi, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, and most of the U.S.’s 104 plants were built in the 1970s and 1980s, challenging its future containment to radiation. To avert perilous consequences, the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program works to reduce earthquake hazard in the United States. Real time information on earthquakes can be on seen on this link.

Though the horror of what occurred is still hard to grasp, we see that the shock is gradually wearing off (and reality sinking in).  People the world over are getting back to normalcy in terms of their inquisitiveness to dig more news about Japan’s situation.

The devastation has not only changed the shape of public opinion and raised the bar of safety for all nations; it has yet again revealed the fragile streak to our very existence.

*Breakout defines a search term that has experienced a change in growth greater than 5,000 percent.

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