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.
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.
Now that's some boomin' bass.
New data from a French satellite launched to detect really low frequency waves--way deeper than the tune bumpin' from that Escalade next to you at the stop light--generated by the earth, saw some significant activity right before the Haitian earth quake, last January. While earthquake prediction is always going to be a difficult nut to crack, these sorts of satellite based measurements could be another useful tool in staying clear of shaky ground.
Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said,
"If you're scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you. And that understanding empowers you."
(You can hear Mr. Tyson "sing" this line in the Symphony of Science/Poetry of Reality video below.)
Courtesy United Nations Development Programme
I've been thinking about that idea a lot today after hearing two stories:
The cause of the Haitian earthquake is clear--100% explainable without having to invoke pacts with the Devil or martyr's ghosts. Same in Iran -- geologic activity in the area will continue whether or not women are veiled and chaste.
The solution is not "to take refuge in religion." The wrangling over unverifiable, supernatural causes for things diverts very needed resources and attention from real world solutions to very urgent problems.
The solution is to take refuge in science. Michael Shermer (yup, he "sings") says,
"Science is the best tool ever devised for understanding how the world works."
The Earth hasn't changed. People have. We're seeing quake activity with big consequences because there are more of us than ever before, many, many of us live in developing countries where large populations live in dense communities with lax building codes, and communications technology means that we know what has happened, not because we're paying a geological price for not living our lives correctly.
So what do we do? We innovate. We devise new and better monitoring and warning systems. We develop building techniques that are both locally appropriate and safer in the event of a quake. We teach people how to protect themselves in an emergency and how to react afterwards.
Richard Dawkins (my current nerd crush; you can watch him "sing" in the video, too.) said,
"Science replaces private prejudice with publicly verifiable evidence."
How can you not get behind an idea like that?
Courtesy WikipediaGeology may not be the "sexiest" of sciences, but when it gets cranked up, it can really make its presence known. And we've had a very interesting run of geological news in the past few months. The recent focus on earthquake matters is really summed up well in this commentary piece by Craig Childs of the Los Angeles Times.
Just in case you don't click the link, here are a few important notes from the piece to keep in mind while you're trying to figure out if the world is indeed coming to an end:
• With population increasing across the globe, more people are living in more hazardous regions.
• With our explosion of communications, we're hearing about earthquakes more often and in more depth.
• Since records have been kept on seismic activity, we know that about 50 earthquakes are recorded every day. Annually, the Earth averages 17 major earthquakes (7.0 to 7.9 on the Richter scale) and one doozy (8.0 or higher). The activity we've been seeing this year fits into those numbers so far.
Here are a few more items to points to take home regarding the recent geological frenzy:
As of Friday midday, the death toll in the China earthquake had climbed to over 1,100. While the devastation is much like the quakes in Haiti and Chile, the quake's cause, we're learning, was different.
Not all earthquakes start the same way. While most at the result of interactions between Earth's tectonic plates, this week's earthquake in China was different. It was an "intraplate" quake contained within an individual tectonic plate. Here's a full explanation. Basically, a quake occurs along a smaller fault that forms inside the plate, which is caused by other plates pushing on that plate's edges.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone in the central U.S., stretching from Arkansas to southern Illinois, is another example where "intraplate" earthquakes occur. On average, there's about an earthquake every-other-day in that zone, but they're very mild. But a large quake in the zone can spread damage over a much larger area.
Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to erupt and its ash continues to interrupt airline travel. Geologists have no idea how long the eruption might last. Back in 1821, the volcano erupted for several months. And the larger neighboring volcano, Katla, has not erupted yet. Typically it follows after Eyjafjallajokull's initial eruptions, and geologists say if that happens again, Katla could send out even greater amounts of volcanic ash.