Friday, June 10, 2005

EARTHQUAKE ALERT

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For the last five months, nearly all the daily/weekly activity has been in or around Sumatra to Australia. Now it is fairly quiet and suddenly, just this week, significant earthquake activity is now rising on the mirror subduction zone along the entire American coast.

Today, a 5.9 Richter Earthquake at a mere 10 km under shook a sparsely populated part of Canada along the line of this subduction zone that starts in Vancouver Island and Seattle. Since it didn't kill anyone, it didn't make any news. But coupled with the following 5.8 at 45 km earthquake at Rat Island, Alaska, alarm bells should be ringing in California to Washington. The earth has buckled and warped after the tremendous series of earthquakes that are still shaking Java like jelly and this warpage has caused tremendous tension in the fragile west coast of both Americas.

There have been no massive earthquakes but the fact that Rat Island is getting increasingly severe quakes is scary. Rat Island holds the honor of being the home of the greatest earthquakes to hit the USA in the last 100 years. It is a hinge point in the Pacific just like Panama is a hinge point connecting the two Americas. Since the Great Sumatran Earthquake this December, Central America has been shaking regularly as the stresses shoving the two continents in a cartwheel pinching the Caribbean basin.

The stress on the subduction plate that makes up the entire West Coast is about to unzip. It is still unzipping in Sumatra, which has a very similar subduction plate movement. A quick look at a possible future map of the earth shows clearly the forces at work here:
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Scientists have discovered that Seattle, for example, gets annihilated by tidal waves on a regular, around 500 year basis. The last one to sweep the place clean happened about 400 years ago. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the natives on the shores who survived the last one still remember it via legends and tales about the battle between the orca and the turtle.

Subsiding coast is signal of major earthquakes.
If coastal subsidence is common before subduction zone quakes, areas such as those ringing the Pacific Rim could be on the lookout for subsidence as a warning of possible future megathrust quakes like the Dec. 26 9.0 Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake, the researchers say.

"In areas along subduction zones, like the Northwest coast of the United States, we should look to see where the land has subsided and put instruments there to monitor it," said Jere Lipps, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and study coauthor. "If the land continues to subside instead of relaxing back to normal, it could indicate a big earthquake and a tsunami might occur some time in the next few years."
Talking about things sliding into the ocean and beaches disappearing rapidly, more rapidly than via global warming, how about this:
Heavy rains and hurricanes may grab the headlines, but a more relentless force chews away at coastlines every day. Erosion slowly destroys about 1,500 American homes and the land they sit on annually, according to a report prepared for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Wherever beachfront real estate lies, from California to Delaware, communities are torn by competing forces: the relentless loss of shoreline and the relentless desire of some people to live on the scenic edge.

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I grew up romping on this coast, my parents now live in Santa Barbara. I looked at the photo in shock. If this isn't subsidence! Good grief! I lived in Coney Island. The effects of global warming means the ocean is eating away at the gently sloping beach there but it isn't like this! We are looking at serious erosion here and it isn't merely oceanic.
The county also moved to evict tenants of four other buildings on the same road, but after some owners contested the decision, saying that danger was not imminent, the county agreed to let the tenants stay. All nine buildings sit on relatively fragile sedimentary shale, which tilts toward the beach at a 45-degree angle, making it less stable. Erosion has exposed pillars that were installed to stabilize the soil. Their exposure, which invites waves to bounce among them and the cliff, is quickening erosion, said the county geologist, Brian Baca.
It would be interesting to see if this 45 degree angle was less so 100 years ago.

An earthquake series like the Sumatra ones hasn't hit the West Coast in almost 500 years which is about the same as the Sumatran cycle, indeed, both are intimately connected! The Sumatran quakes cause the American quakes.

The officials in the Geological Survey are alarmed.
Major Losses of Up to $250 Billion Projected for Earthquakes on Puente Hills Fault Under Los Angeles is this week's headline at their web site. Potential earthquakes on the Puente Hills fault beneath the Los Angeles area could result in 3,000 to 18,000 fatalities, 142,000 to 735,000 displaced households, and more than $250 billion in total damages, according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) research.

The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) is a consortium funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the USGS. SCEC involves over 400 scientists at more than 50 research institutions, and is headquartered at the University of Southern California (USC).

The new research results, published in the May 2005 issue of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute´s Earthquake Spectra, were based on shaking scenarios created using newly available software for seismic hazard analysis developed by SCEC and the USGS, coupled with HAZUS loss-estimation software developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Puente Hills fault was discovered in 1999. In 2003, a study led by SCEC researchers at USC found that the fault had ruptured at least four times in the last 11,000 years, with magnitudes ranging from 7.2 to 7.5. To determine probable losses from such earthquakes on the Puente Hills fault, the authors of the new study created 18 different scenarios depicting different possible shaking levels throughout the region. The authors noted that it is vital to understand that the loss scenarios themselves are somewhat uncertain because of the many variables involved in predicting ground shaking, including whether the full fault ruptures or just part of it. Also, the formal quantification of loss estimates is still a challenging and imprecise science, even using the best available models and scientific data.
Yikes. Double yikes. And this is an obscure side fault line, not the main frame sectors! The Biggie.

What isparticularityy pathetic is the craven need to reassure all those poor people with an ocean view from hell:


The authors also emphasize that a full Puente Hills fault rupture is a rare event, occurring once every 3,000 years or so. "In fact," said Field, "as an individual your odds of dying of a heart attack or an auto accident are much greater than dying from this earthquake." "That being said," Field added, "there are other sources of earthquakes throughout the region, and it’s not question of if, but when, so everyone should take necessary safety precautions. With USGS science, we are striving to prevent these natural hazards from becoming disasters." Furthermore, he said, a Puente Hills earthquake would have widespread impact, so it’s also up to emergency and public policy officials to plan accordingly.

"Quantifying earthquake risk is difficult and fraught with many uncertainties," said Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, and a co-author of the new study. "One of the main goals of this study was to use our improved knowledge of seismic hazards in Southern California to evaluate and hopefully reduce the uncertainties in this type of risk analysis."
All warnings are hedged heavily with this sort of stupid stuff. Do 250,000 people die of heart attacks in just one hour? Huh? When these things hit, they hit hard. Imagine a car crash killing a quarter million people at once. Yeah. Don't worry, be unwary!

How on earth is anyone in our government "fixing" or "preparing" for a series of obvious catastrophes that will wipe out maybe hundreds of thousands in an eyeblink?

Nothing.

You look at the pictures of the collapsing buildings in the area that is obviously sinking in preparation for a really nasty earthquake. Reluctantly, the people move from building that are teetering on the edge of destruction. Not one of these things should have been built. But they were, recklessly and stupidly. This dogged refusal to take into account the forces of nature characterizes human behavior.

The story of the Tower of Babel is very old. We never learn.
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