Earthquakes

earthquakes

2012: The end of the world or just another year of living in harm's way?

We live on a knife-edge, separated from an ocean of super-heated rock by a wafer-thin and perpetually rupturing crust, swinging our way through a cosmic minefield of lethal debris around a nuclear furnace prone to tantrums. For doomsayers, the end of the Mayan long-count calendar, set against such a backdrop, is a gift. Though Mayan culture never spoke of a cataclysm, Dec. 21, 2012 — the purported last day of a 5,125-year cycle in the Mesoamerican calendar — has been added to an endless list of days when the world has been predicted to end.

24 Jul 2012

Voices: Italian quakes and deaths point to industrial facilities as death traps

On May 29, eighteen people died in northern Italy when a magnitude-5.8 earthquake struck near the town of Mirandola. Arguably, these deaths were preventable, and they bring up the questions of how we can prevent such deaths in the future. Building codes are key in protecting people. If the most modern buildings collapse while old ones remain standing, something is wrong.

06 Jun 2012

Better warnings for the consequences of earthquakes: Bringing seismic hazard and risk assessments to policy

Although seismologists and engineers have generated a world map of seismic hazard, which shows the level of ground shaking not likely to be exceeded, the ground motions and death tolls of several recent large quakes have far exceeded expectations. It’s time to change the way we measure seismic hazard and seismic risk.

29 May 2012

Sumatran strike-slip earthquakes challenge seismologists

Events may shed light on regional tectonics, alter stress on nearby megathrust

After the magnitude-8.6 earthquake and magnitude-8.2 aftershock that struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia on April 11, scientists quickly identified why no tsunami followed either one: The earthquakes had occurred on strike-slip faults more than 400 kilometers offshore rather than on the Sunda megathrust fault that has been responsible for a series of large earthquakes since 2004. For all that can be explained, however, the earthquakes took most scientists by surprise. The combination of their size — they're the largest strike-slip earthquake ever recorded by most accounts — and their location is challenging the paradigm of strike-slip earthquakes and is raising new questions about the region’s tectonics.

11 May 2012

Managing the seismic risk posed by wastewater disposal

From an earthquake perspective, 2011 was a remarkable year. While the devastation accompanying the magnitude-9.0 Tohoku earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan on March 11 still captures attention worldwide, the relatively stable interior of the U.S. was struck by a somewhat surprising number of small-to-moderate earthquakes that were widely felt. Most of these were natural events, the types of earthquakes that occur from time to time in all intraplate regions.

17 Apr 2012

Blogging On EARTH: Wisconsin's microquake mystery

On the list of earthquake-prone states, Wisconsin does not rank highly. Yes, occasionally, America’s Dairyland is subjected to light rumbles emanating from its neighbor to the south, Illinois. But Wisconsin is hardly where you’d expect to find much excitement, let alone fear, over the possibility of homegrown seismic activity. And yet, that's exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when hundreds of people in Clintonville, Wis. began dialing 911 with reports that their homes were being inexplicably shaken overnight by terrifying booms.

11 Apr 2012

Blogging on EARTH: Panelists weigh in on tsunami preparedness policy

“It is not a question of whether it will happen, but when it will happen,” said John Schelling, addressing the room at a Congressional Hazards Caucus briefing last week, as experts discussed the need for more tsunami preparedness in the United States.

23 Mar 2012

Voices: From Haiti to Japan: A tale of two disaster recoveries

A year ago this month, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck northern Japan. Two years and two months earlier, on Jan. 12, 2010, a much smaller earthquake devastated Haiti. Both earthquakes occurred on a weekday and in the afternoon, but there is very little else that is similar about these two events or how the countries have recovered.

09 Mar 2012

Benchmarks: December 16, 1811-February 7, 1812: The New Madrid earthquakes strike the Heartland

This winter marks the bicentennial of a series of powerful intraplate earthquakes that occurred in the central United States over a two-month period beginning on Dec. 16, 1811. Named for New Madrid, one of the settlements on the Mississippi River, these tremors were among the largest historic earthquakes to occur east of the Rocky Mountains.

16 Dec 2011

Blogging on EARTH: AGU: Japan tsunami actually made population more vulnerable?

Usually, when a major natural disaster strikes, a population becomes more alert and aware. People know what warning signs to watch for; they know what to do should such an event occur again. They increase their chances of staying alive. For example, intergenerational knowledge of tsunamis passed down by island tribes around the Indian Ocean is credited with saving lives during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

05 Dec 2011

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