Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cobbles and Gravel

Tohoku (previously referred to as Sendai) Earthquake
  • Via everybody everywhere, XKCD has posted a chart illustrating the magnitude of concern you should have regarding radiation releases from the Japanese reactors. (Spoiler: not so much) ZOMG! Bananas! Domestic Partners! What's my exposure from a cat sleeping in my lap!? Additional fun and enlightening commentary at The Vigorous North.
  • Michael Welland at Through the Sandglass has a piece on tsunamis in the historic and sedimentary records, and implications for human development of vulnerable areas.
  • Power line connections have been completed to the crippled reactors in Japan; water pumps will be tested soon. Hopefully, this is nearly the end of the on-going nuclear crisis there.
  • There have been several good posts on the nature of surface deformation in the neighborhood of the quake. I get exasperated with the breathless statements like "Japan moves eight meters east" and "Earth's day shortens" as a result of the quake. Portions of Japan did move east- some more than others, but not the island nation as a whole- and the earth's rotation did speed up- just as an ice skater who tightens their arms against their body will increase their rate of spin. But what is never mentioned in these kinds of headlines is that over the next centuries, as the area around the fault is stressed and strained, and another earthquake builds, is that the same areas will move west, and as the land surface rises again, the earth's spin rate will slow. It's cyclic. Yes, these happened quickly, but the fact that the motions happen in reverse slowly doesn't mean the counterpart of the sudden motion is unimportant. Hudson Valley Geologist has a good color-coded map of how much different areas moved; Highly Allochthonous puts together an excellent round up of information and links; The Chatterbox: it's not just the tsunamis; subsidence means some areas will stay flooded; a variety of teaching resources from Hudson Valley Geologist. In particular, note the video clip; Jorge at Structural Geology provides a nice explanation, an excellent set of schematics, and lots of links; finally, Callan at Mountain Beltway shows the horizontal and vertical components of overall ground movement from before to after the quake. Keep in mind though, as I said in the introduction to this bullet, this nearly instantaneous movement will be reversed in large part, and "reset" over much longer timescales in the decades and centuries to come. Then it will happen again.
  • Because People Could Die: A culture of nonchalance and our resentment of those who challenge our laziness can kill us, from Swanson Tea.
  • Anne Jefferson at Highly Allochthonous has a great summary piece on the tsunami(s).
  • If I had to pick one image to express how blown away I've been by the last twelve days of news out of Japan, it would be this one, first seen at Steve Gough's Riparian Rap: cars on the roofs of three-story buildings.
Reverberations of the quake in the PNW
  • Tillamook, OR oyster farmer to donate larvae to assist Japanese oyster industry's recovery. (with video)
  • Brookings, OR Harbor reopens; Damage estimate reduced from $10 million to $6.7 million; Federal disaster assistance requested. OregonLive.
  • If you insist on worrying about radiation from Japan in the PNW (please don't), OregonLive has an article about resources you can use. Most important, there's a link to radiation monitors' recent daily data in Oregon. (link for Washington at the OL article) First sentence at the site: "Radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan is not a health risk in Oregon."
  • Portland Hospitals claim to be prepared for "The Big One." This is some of the best preparedness news I've read in a long time, and I think it sounds well-founded, not just PR.
  • On the other hand, older Portland homes (pre-80's) not so much. The good news, though, is that retrofitting the typical private home is not likely to be as expensive as I might have guessed.
  • And on yet still another hand, Portland schools have been retrofitted with an eye to allow survivability, but not continued usability. In other words, occupants will most likely be able to escape safely, but buildings will not be salvageable afterwards. I have mixed feelings about this strategy, and I'm hoping it's a temporary first step, with schools able to withstand a major quake and be usable afterwards replacing older, weaker structures as funds become available. Schools and other public properties can be critically important shelters and organizational centers after disasters... as long as they're safe to use.
  • I first read about this months ago, and I've been meaning to comment, but in the meantime, Cannon Beach, OR planning to build nation's first tsunami-resistant building. My quick response: I'm dubious, and I'm afraid that if the conditions are exactly wrong, this could be a terrible liability magnet.
  • Oregon Expat posts a video I haven't yet taken time to watch, examining the OR coast and its tsunami risks. Another topic I've been hoping to get to, but haven't set aside time. Short version: much of the coast is situated on elevated terraces, and at-risk sites are limited in area. However, most coastal communities are situated near harbors with adjacent estuarine-tidal flat lands moderately to heavily developed. So a majority of communities have some of their most economically important land in vulnerable areas. Here's the OregonLive article Oregon Expat is working from.
  • OregonLive: Don't turn your back on tsunami warnings. An excellent, startling video of the late tsunami at Depoe Bay (most famous as the location for the fishing excursion in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) The reason I say startling is that it really doesn't look like it's all that big a deal... until all of the sudden it obviously is a big deal. Also, if you missed it above, Chris embedded a time lapse video of the tsunami at Crescent City, CA so I didn't have to. For both these clips, you'll probably be happier with the sound way down or off, though I have to say with the Crescent City clip, the time lapse sound of the tsunami tsiren kind of made me giggle.
World Water Day
Et Cetera
  • Incredible description and photo of pseudotacylite and megabreccia from Vredefort crater, South Africa at Erratics. Erratics is a blog created specifically for those who would like to dip their toes into geoblogging without the trouble and commitment of actually starting a new blog of ones own. Curious? Check it out!
  • Via Iceland Volcano and Earthquake Blog and Eruptions, yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption. It started off beautiful, became a royal pain in the butt by disrupting European air travel, but it never killed anyone. My kind of disaster.
  • This could fit in several different categories, but there has been some twitter discussion of a piece by Simon Winchester at Newsweek. Chris at Highly Allochthonous has posted the first blog commentary I've seen so far, but I expect this item will be under discussion for a while: watch for more. For the record, I'm not a big fan of Winchester. As an example, the first book of his I read was The Map That Changed the World. Let's just ignore his predilection for hyperbolic titles and statements, and my general distaste for phrases in the form of "The X that Y'd the Z," where X is a noun, Y is a catastrophic verb, and Z is a general noun carrying implications of "everything important." A person who didn't know who William Smith was would come away from that book with the idea that the great accomplishment of his life- emphasized and re-emphasized at least once or twice a chapter- was spending a few weeks in debtor's prison. Likewise with Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, I think the author makes a good case for the importance of that eruption. He admits very quickly and in passing near the beginning that it was not the largest eruption in recorded history- let alone geologic history. Yet an innocent and geologically naive reader might very well come away with the idea that it was the biggest explosion since the Earth was created; Winchester falls all over himself trying to find ways to supersize this eruption, just like a McDonalds clerk. And like McDonalds, there are way too many empty calories for my taste. As I commented at Chris' post, Winchester too often strikes me as more interested in marketing than informing.
  • Ah Ha! Here's another bit of Winchester debunking at Life's Little Mysteries.
  • "The battle to prevent dangerous climate change is over; the race to survive it has begun." Via Hot Topic. If only we could get the US House to legislate recalibrating the Fahrenheit, Celsius and Kelvin temperature scales, this wouldn't be a problem.
  • I found this a baffling mixture of fact and fake, sense and nonsense; it's not totally wrong, but there's enough wrong that my BS detector was ringing at three-alarm levels. Calcite, for example, is much more plastic under high T&P than quartz; halite and gypsum even more so. However, the latter two aren't major components of rock on a global scale. Quartz could hold key to explaining earthquakes.
  • Deaths per terawatt-hour from various electrical generation energy sources, via Swanson Tea.
  • Sunday was the Vernal Equinox; Steven Schimmrich at Hudson Valley Geologist lays out the details.
  • Garry Hayes at Geotripper takes his analytical skills to the next level, and predicts an earthquake today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Useful? You decide.
  • If only idiots will vote for certain politicians and listen to certain shock-jocks, you can rest assured those pols and jocks will do everything they can to make sure everyone is an idiot.

No comments: