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Friday's 8.9-magnitude temblor off the east coast of Japan ranks as one of the 10-largest earthquakes ever recorded. Though scientists have just begun to pore over the data, they have already made some surprising discoveries about one of the most quake-prone regions on Earth.
What tripped scientists up was a lack of recent activity in the area, Jordan said. The last earthquake of this magnitude along this plate boundary occurred in the year 869. Seismologists had been debating the fault's potential to break, but they had little data to go on.