Monday, January 09, 2006

3.7 Earthquake Hits New York/Canadian Borders Today

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

We just had a 3.7 eathquake just north of here today! It is a small tremor, as they go, but interesting because the geology where I live is very complex and a lot of it is very ancient indeed, this being the place where the first landmasses of the North American continent first saw the light of day nearly a billion years ago.

Here is the website showing the exact location of the earthquake. It was right by a state park called Flat Rock Gulf State Unique Area. Try topping that name!

On the border of Franklin and Clinton counties right on the border of Canada! This area is fairly flat and laced with lakes and streams. It is also where several landmasses converge. The St. Lawrence Seaway is nearby as well as Montreal.

This schematic drawing tries to give a vague idea of the larger, complex geological elements of my state of New York. Few parts of the earth aside from Siberia (!) have been mashed about as much as where I live today. Luckily for me, this happened mostly half a billion years ago to around 150 million years so I am intact still.

The earthquake is where the red star is shining. It is right on the confluence of a number of totally unrelated continental masses got jammed together when Africa paid us a little visit after the Permian. Our state is pretty stable, geologically speaking, since no one is pressing on us right now, unlike California, for example. We do get earthquakes. I have noticed a series of earthquakes starting right around the New Madrid Fault on the Mississippi River, then one after another, every few days up the Ohio River and now ending up here on the St. Lawrence. Next, Greenland?

Here is a God's Eye view of how we came crashing into the nascent North American continent back in the very beginning. At this time, Florida was off over the other side of the planet, no where near any Bushes or Disney. We came tearing across oceans that barely could support single celled lifeforms, spewing volcanic dust which didn't matter since the air was positively Venusian in its toxicitity. Between the warmth of the new born planet's core and the increasingly dense acidic air, everything got nice and warm, this brought about a huge blossoming of life in the oceans of the planet. Meanwhile, the Taconics hit North America and created mountains higher than the Himalayans. Since there was nothing growing, it all washed down rapidly in muddy floods. Most traces of the volcanoes were shifted away to the west, huge mud flats formed and filled the hollows.

By the time plants colonized our area, we were being folded and squeezed by Panagea. Because our past is so complex, the landscape today is interesting if one looks past all the trees and old refrigerators and rusty cars littering the landscape (heh).

This is a schematic of my valley. The hills on the east side run east to west and the Rensselaer plateau heaves straight up on the other side of the Little Hoosiac, leaving a narrow valley between us. California has new landscapes that have the same features, hills running crosswise to long rifts. One of the steepest roads in America is my own road which is called Plank Road until it crosses the stream and then is called Greenhollow Road except to old timers who call it Elm Street or Jones Hallow or "them thar hills". Don't ask for directions if you are lost.

We are famous because a gas truck lost control on Plank Road and crashed into the town, blowing it up forty years ago. Doesn't stop people from racing up and down today. I nearly got washed away on this road last fall during the October floods.

Our little stream runs in the opposite direction from the Hudson River. Despite the glaciers which turned the flatlands on the western side of us into the world's longest fjord, our water still runs due north in a pretty straight line following the ancient crash zone when the Taconics hit the Rensselaers. This means, it is an earthquake zone if something happens like a meteor strike or whatever. Not that it will matter at that point.

Ask the dinosaurs.
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