Courtesy USGS/Earthquake Science CenterA court in Italy has sentenced six scientists and an ex-government official to six years in prison for failing to properly warn the public about a devastating earthquake that killed 309 residents of the town of L'Aquila in 2009. The seven defendants were convicted of manslaughter and also ordered to pay for damages and court costs.
I think the court itself has failed to predict just how idiotic this irrational prosecution looks to the world scientific community. Let's hope an appeals court will be reasonable enough to override this terrible injustice.
Courtesy USGS Preceded by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, Washington state's Mount St. Helens explodes with a major eruption in 1980 that flattens the surrounding forest, blankets the immediate area with mud and avalanche debris, and unleashes more than 500 million tons of ash into the air that reaches as far as Oklahoma (although traces of the ash encircle the globe). Fifty-seven people lose their lives from the eruption.
Courtesy USGS Earthquake Hazards ProgramThe dumping of waste-water used in the process known as fracking is suspected of causing recent earthquakes in Ohio. Two minor tremors (magnitude (2.7 and 4.2) were felt over the holidays in the Youngstown area which is about 50 miles east of Akron. Hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) is the process of extracting natural gas from rock deposits by fracturing the rock with high-pressure liquid injections. Waste water from the fracking process gets disposed underground into deep wells. The discarded water seeps into strike-slip faults several kilometers beneath the surface where it builds up pressure and also acts as a lubricant. allowing the rock on both sides of the fault to move more easily past each other, resulting in an earthquake. Smaller quakes had been detected in the area during the past year so Ohio's DNR requested Columbia University's Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) to set up portable seismographs in the area. Four of the sensitive instruments were installed on Novermber 30 within a half-mile of the injection site. The seismograph recordings showed that the two holiday quakes were centered within 100 meters of each other, implicating the disposal process as the catalyst. While scientists make further study of the problem, fracking has been discontinued at the injection site.
Are you prepared for a major earthquake? Do you know how to protect yourself when they happen? The purpose of the ShakeOut website is to help people and organizations do both. Several earthquake scenarios for individuals, schools, governments, and organizations are provided on the website. The ShakeOut dtill began in 2008 with the Great Southern California ShakeOut. Last year, the California ShakeOut had 7.9 million participants.
2011 was the first year of The Great Central U.S. ShakeOut. It was the largest earthquake drill to ever take place in the Central U.S. with more than 3 million registered participants. 2011 was also the first year of the British Columbia ShakeOut, the largest earthquake drill to ever take place in Canada, with 470,000 participants.
The next Central United States ShakeOut will likely be held on February 7th, 2012, with the first Japanese ShakeOut, centered in Tokyo, planned for the following month on March 11, 2012, the anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Courtesy US Geological Survey Photographic LibraryToday marks the bicentennial of the start of the historic New Madrid earthquake series, which began at 2am on December 16, in 1811. The quakes were so powerful, large areas of land uplifted and sank creating new lakes and swamps, and causing islands to disappear. Large waves spawned by the tremors raked across the banks of the Mississippi causing massive landslides, and even briefly changing the course of the mighty river.
Named after the nearby river village of New Madrid in the then Louisiana Territory (now Missouri), the quake and its many aftershocks affected an area 10 times larger than the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Luckily, the New Madrid area was sparsely populated when the line of strong earthquakes took place, as they were the strongest recorded earthquakes ever to take place east of the Rocky Mountains.
Earthquakes of such magnitude as those that struck New Madrid (~ 7.0) typically occur along plate boundaries - areas where one tectonic plate is colliding with another, such as along the West Coast's San Andreas Fault. The mid-section of the country sets on only one plate - the normally stable North American plate. Faults do run through it, such as the Cottonwood Grove and the Reelfoot faults which some scientists hypotheisze were responsible for the New Madrid series.
But researchers don't agree on what caused the strong intraplate earthquakes. They could have been triggered by other distant earthquakes or by the release of energy built up by the heating of the crust from an upper mantle magma plume or from isostatic rebound - that is the release of stresses caused by the retreat of glaciers that once covered the region.
Whatever the cause and despite new data being gathered by present day geologists, the New Madrid earthquakes were an historic anomaly that remain wrapped in mystery.
Ozone is a triatomic molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms. Earlier this week, the scientific journal Applied Physics Letters published the article, Ozone generation by rock fracture: Earthquake early warning?, written by Raúl A. Baragiola, Catherine A. Dukes, and Dawn Hedges of the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science. If future research does confirm a correlation, an array of ozone detectors could be used to give early warning to earthquakes, as well as averting disasters in tunnel excavation, landslides, and underground mining operations.
University of Virginia Press Release: Study: Ozone From Rock Fracture Could Serve As Earthquake Early Warning
It turns out that our best predictor for earthquakes may be high in the sky rather than deep underground. Before the recent quake in Japan, the atmosphere above its epicenter heated dramatically as a result of radon released from Earth's crust during smaller movements. This radioactive gas triggered condensation of water in the air, which released a large amount of heat.
See photographs of the Japan earthquake/tsunami damage on Gigapan. (You can zoom and pan to explore each image.)
This video is definitely strange. It was taken in Tokyo Central Park on the afternoon the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck in northern Japan. What it shows has been described by some as liquefaction. I'm not sure that's what's going here but whatever it is, I think most people would find it very unsettling. That doesn't seem to be the case with people in the park.
Be sure to watch it past the first minute (and the constantly barking dog) as that is when it gets the most interesting.
Check out this amazing map. It shows the number of foreshocks, the big quake, and aftershocks, as well their location, date/time, depth, and magnitude. Stick with it: it starts off slowly, but it gets pretty horrifyingly spectacular.