Thursday, March 4, 2010

Earthquake Escalation?

I continue to be impressed with The Christian Science Monitor's science reporting. I saw the headline above in my email newsletter, and clicked over, prepared to write an scathing take-down of more bad science journalism. Instead, right up front, the lede says this:
The 6.4-magnitude Taiwan earthquake that hit on Thursday – on the heels of quakes in Haiti and Chile – raised concern of an accelerating trend. But the statistics say otherwise.
The article doesn't downplay the destructiveness or importance of the recent quakes, it just places them in an appropriate context.
Kuo says the Taiwan, Chile, and Haiti quakes involved different tectonic plates. Globally, he says, there's an average of one magnitude 8 or higher earthquake per year, some 17 magnitude 7 or higher quakes, and 170 to 180 of magnitude 6 or larger.

So far this year there's only been one quake higher than 8 – Chile's fearsome, 8.8 magnitude temblor. Last year there were 16 magnitude 7 or higher quakes, right at the average. And so far this year there have been three magnitude 7 or higher quakes, including Haiti's.

"From a global view, that's not especially a lot," says Kuo.

Taiwan is frequently rocked by quakes, experiencing one of magnitude 7 or higher every five years and a quake of magnitude 6 or higher every 100 days. "We've only had one like this so far this year, so that's still normal," says Kuo.
So not only was this the first I had heard of the quake in Taiwan (photo gallery), it's the first time (that I recall) seeing the statistic that there is a magnitude 6 quake every two days or so, on average.

Way to go, CSM! Ur doin it rite!


Darius Whiteplume said...

I don't read the CSM, but they seem to have a fair reputation for how little I pay attention.

Nice to see some one in that camp not swinging the fear stick.

Lockwood said...

As I've remarked before, for a "Christian" news source, I think the CSM does a remarkably good job of keeping its religion and its reporting separate from each other. They have a column in each edition called "A Christian Science Perspective," in which they discuss religion and spirituality. I don't read it very often- maybe a couple of times a year- but even there, the rhetoric is more often based on simple moral and ethical grounds rather than fire, brimstone, the bibble, and angry jayzus. I think it's one of the best US news sources in existence.