The Atlantic has a photo gallery of the Great San Francisco Earthquake from 1906:
110 years ago next week, on April 18, 1906, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake centered near the city of San Francisco struck at 5:15 AM. The intense shaking toppled hundreds of buildings, but the resulting out-of-control fires were even more destructive. Broken water mains and limited firefighting capabilities allowed city-wide fires to burn for several days. Nearly 500 city blocks were leveled, with more than 25,000 buildings destroyed. At the time, the city was home to more than 400,000 residents—after the disaster, 250,000 were left homeless. The exact death toll is undetermined, but most estimates place the number of deaths caused by the earthquake and fire at more than 3,000.
Watch it full screen.
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Pumping all that waste water into the ground has really helped Oklahoma and Texas catch up to California! Man-made earthquakes in those regions are now as likely as the real ones in some of California's riskiest zones. These new maps from the USGS tell the tale pretty well.
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USGS scientists have now published the first maps of these new quake zones, and they're an eye-opener. An eye-opener because 7 million people are now, suddenly, living in quake zones. There are 21 hot spots where the quakes are concentrated. They're in places where, historically, noticeable earthquakes were rare: Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Ohio and Alabama have also experienced some induced quakes.
A decade ago, an Oklahoman could count the number of noticeable quakes on her fingers. "In this past year, we had over 900," says USGS seismic hazard expert Mark Petersen. "So the rates have surged."
Petersen says induced quakes have become more frequent because there's more wastewater from oil and gas operations around the country that has to be disposed of. Companies pump it down into underground wells, and sometimes that water raises pressure on underground faults that then slip and cause small quakes.
Vice today published a 5-part, deeply reported and researched science fiction series
about what happens after the a massive earthquake hits an American city.
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An 8.3 earthquake hit central Chile yesterday, killing 10 and forcing one million to evacuate their homes. The BBC has drone footage of the devastation. Read the rest
KTVU-Oakland weatherman Steve Paulson was mid-forecast as a magnitude 4.0 earthquake hit Oakland early this morning. (Thanks, Matthew!)
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What if there were a way to warn people right before a big earthquake hits? Earthquake early warning system technology is already serious stuff in Japan, and a system in development for the U.S. just got some serious funding.
[Video Link] There's a video going around that shows a long line of bison trotting down a road in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park. Some people are pointing to this as a sign that the animals are hightailing it out of the park because the Yellowstone volcano is about to blow its top. But in the video above, Yellowstone Park Public Affairs Chief Al Nash explains that the bison and other animals are simply migrating to a lower elevation where they can find food, which they do every year in the dead of winter.
My takeaway from this video was a reminder that I have a box of mouth-watering Bison Bacon Cranberry Bars in my kitchen cabinet. Read the rest
Sometimes before an earthquake, strange bright orbs and glows are seen in the sky, like the scene visible in this video clip captured a half hour before the 2008 quake in Sichuan, China. You might think these are related to the UFOs that cause the quakes, but new research not only suggests a natural cause but also raises the possibility that the phenomena could be an indicator that a quake is coming. The scientists from Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources and San Jose State University suggest that rocks under high stress deep underground release oxygen ions that eventually make their way to the surface, ionizing air pockets above ground and creating a light-emitting plasma.
“If you see visible lights in the sky, and you live in an earthquake-prone area, they might be an early-warning sign that an earthquake is approaching,” geologist Robert Thériault says.
More in Smithsonian: "Why Do Lights Sometimes Appear in the Sky During An Earthquake?" Read the rest
A 6.3 earthquake and one with a magnitude of 7.8 hit Western Iran in the course of just a week. These are largely rural areas, with a lot of mud brick buildings that tend to collapse when the earth shakes. It's hard to say how many casualties there are, in total. Scientifically speaking, the earthquakes were also fairly interesting, writes Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous
. They happened in different — in fact, totally opposite — ways, with the smaller one happening as plates crashed into one another and the larger caused by tectonic plates moving away from each other. This was along the same plate boundary. How's that work? Rowan has the details. Read the rest
Here at BoingBoing, we've talked before about the fact that earthquakes can be triggered by things humans do
— everything from building particularly large reservoir to, most likely, injecting wastewater from fracking operations into underground wells
. After a 5.7 earthquake hit Oklahoma in 2011, researchers there began gathering evidence that is making the link between rumbling earth and oil-and-gas discovery a lot stronger. At Mother Jones, Michael Behar has a story about this research and and how it is (and isn't) affecting the industry
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San Francisco will get a new Bay Bridge this summer. The New York Daily News has an interesting story about that bridge's creation — and the earthquake-resistant engineering behind it. Read the rest
What construction crews could learn from your high school science class, and more great earth science videos.
In a guest piece at Scientific American, David Ropeik argues that an Italian court's decision to charge scientists and a government official with manslaughter isn't about quake prediction per se, but a failure to communicate science effectively. Snip:
But, contrary to the majority of the news coverage this decision is getting and the gnashing of teeth in the scientific community, the trial was not about science, not about seismology, not about the ability or inability of scientists to predict earthquakes. These convictions were about poor risk communication, and more broadly, about the responsibility scientists have as citizens to share their expertise in order to help people make informed and healthy choices.
An editorial from Nature, a publication that covered the case extensively in 2011, echoes this sentiment. "It is important to note that the seven were not on trial for failing to predict the earthquake," but...
Italian scientists guilty of manslaughter after failing to predict quake
Humans can cause earthquakes
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The verdict is perverse and the sentence ludicrous. Already some scientists have responded with warnings about the chilling effect on their ability to serve in public risk assessments.
We don't have a great handle on predicting earthquakes
. But we do know enough about them to know that they aren't all purely forces of nature. Humans can actually cause (or maybe just prompt) the Earth to shake
. We've talked before here at BoingBoing about man-made earthquakes — caused by lubricating rocks deep underground, or by shifting the distribution of weight on the surface of the Earth in significant ways (think: building a reservoir). At Scientific American, David Biello has a short piece on what we do and don't know about this phenomenon
. In light of the ruling in the L'Aquila earthquake trial, I found it particularly interesting to learn that, even when we know we're doing something that could trigger a 'quake, we still aren't very good at figuring out how strong that quake is likely to be. Read the rest
This map of all the world's recorded earthquakes between 1898 and 2003 is stunning. As you might expect, it also creates a brilliant outline of the plates of the Earth's crust—especially the infamous "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific Plate.
But the real story—which Smithsonian points out and which was also the first thing I noticed—lies elsewhere. To put it colloquially: Holy shit, you guys, look at all those intraplate earthquakes!
Plate tectonics explains a lot of things, but it doesn't totally explain why earthquakes (and, in rare cases, extremely large earthquakes) happen in places far from the meeting point of two pieces of crust. There are a few possible explanations out there. We just don't know yet which one is correct.
One of the theories explaining intraplate earthquakes is based off the fact that the tectonic plates we know today have not been constant throughout Earth's history. Some of the places that are now "intraplate" were once right along fault lines. Others are at spots where continents began—and then failed—to split apart. All these things might leave behind spots of "weak" rock that's more prone to upheaval than the strong, intraplate rock around it. Studies in the 1990s found that 49% of all intraplate earthquakes happen near places like this. Of course, that leaves 51% of the shaking still unexplained.
Read more about this and other theories for why intraplate earthquakes happen.
Check out Smithsonian's write up, which includes a nice comparison between this image and a cartoon map showing the tectonic plates. Read the rest
[Video Link] A cat named Steven was playing guitar when an earthquake struck in Melbourne, Australia last week, causing it to stop for a moment.
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