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I have been using the knuckles and fingertips approach to describe the coming earthquake for over ten years now. It’s really quite effective, all-the-more-so when I lay a pencil across the first knuckles and as the pencil leaps into the air when the fingertips slip tell them “this is what will happen to Seattle”. Gaius Publius has a post up at Down With Tyranny and Heather Digby Parton’s place that is really quite informative. Here’s a substantial clip:
This is not quite a political story, but it’s an important one. Most people west of the Mississippi and many people east of it assume that the so-called “Big One,” the mother of all American earthquakes, will occur in southern California along the San Andreas fault.
But scientists who study plate tectonics have come to a surprising, and relatively recent, conclusion — the “big one” is more likely to come in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s likely to be the “really big one.”
I can only give you a small part of this excellent recent article in the New Yorker by Kathryn Schultz, but if this interests you at all, the piece is worth reading through. There’s both good science and important warning here. And if you’re a resident of the region, it may qualify as a must-read.
The problem in a nutshell, from just after the start of the article (my emphasis):
Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.” That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.
Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not.
Take your hands and hold them palms down, middle fingertips touching. Your right hand represents the North American tectonic plate, which bears on its back, among other things, our entire continent, from One World Trade Center to the Space Needle, in Seattle. Your left hand represents an oceanic plate called Juan de Fuca, ninety thousand square miles in size. The place where they meet is the Cascadia subduction zone. Now slide your left hand under your right one. That is what the Juan de Fuca plate is doing: slipping steadily beneath North America. When you try it, your right hand will slide up your left arm, as if you were pushing up your sleeve. That is what North America is not doing. It is stuck, wedged tight against the surface of the other plate.
Without moving your hands, curl your right knuckles up, so that they point toward the ceiling.
Under pressure from Juan de Fuca, the stuck edge of North America is bulging upward and compressing eastward, at the rate of, respectively, three to four millimetres and thirty to forty millimetres a year. It can do so for quite some time, because, as continent stuff goes, it is young, made of rock that is still relatively elastic. (Rocks, like us, get stiffer as they age.) But it cannot do so indefinitely. There is a backstop—the craton, that ancient unbudgeable mass at the center of the continent—and, sooner or later, North America will rebound like a spring. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6. That’s the big one. If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one.
Flick your right fingers outward, forcefully, so that your hand flattens back down again. When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater. (Watch what your fingertips do when you flatten your hand.) The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”.
GP bolded the parts that describe the geologic stress and what’s likely to happen to the land when it releases. The upward bulge of the land includes the Cascades mountain region and land west to the sea (Mount Hood, in the Cascades Mountains, is only 80 miles east of Portland). A six-foot drop in elevation of land within “a few minutes” would destroy everything built on top of it. A similar drop beneath the ocean would create a tsunami that would wipe out everything living along the coast.
The tsunami that was the result of earthquake that occurred in 1700 pretty much wiped out Japan, and may very well have had the added effect of opening her feudal society up to Western exploitation. There’s a real good book about it, with illustrations (pictures) down at the Bend Library.
We’ve got earthquakes, volcanoes, forest fires…
… you people really don’t want to move here.
So put down the Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on Fox Kool-Aid and turn off the television, because Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech On Why Environmentalism Is A ‘Patriotic Duty’, defined what it was to be a progressive, and why the true nationalists and patriots were progressives, and environmentalists, and you ain’t it:
Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on. Conservation is a great moral issue for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation. …
“I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children,” Roosevelt explained in the speech. “That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation.”
Roosevelt then immediately pointed out, “Let me add that the health and vitality of our people are at least as well worth conserving as their forests, waters, lands, and minerals, and in this great work the national government must bear a most important part.” And he was blunt about the solution:
There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done….
It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced.
- The “greatest good for the greatest number” applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.
- If in a given community unchecked popular rule means unlimited waste and destruction of the natural resources — soil, fertility, waterpower, forests, game, wild-life generally — which by right belong as much to subsequent generations as to the present generation, then it is sure proof that the present generation is not yet really fit for self-control, that it is not yet really fit to exercise the high and responsible privilege of a rule which shall be both by the people and for the people. The term “for the people” must always include the people unborn as well as the people now alive, or the democratic ideal is not realized.
- The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.
- The United States at this moment occupies a lamentable position as being perhaps the chief offender among civilized nations in permitting the destruction and pollution of nature. Our whole modern civilization is at fault in the matter. But we in America are probably most at fault … Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals’not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements.
- To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them.
This is what it means to be a progressive in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt.
The bottom line is it is immoral for one generation to destroy another generation’s vital soil — or its livable climate.
You are an enemy of the American People, enemy of the American Way of Life.
And a clear and present danger to my grand-children’s future.
So put down the Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on Fox Kool-Aid and turn off the television, because The ‘Monster’ El Nino on the way isn’t even here yet…
In the dead of a Prairie winter, when cars won’t start and exposed skin freezes in 30 seconds, people pray for a searing hot summer. But across Western Canada this season, many may be recalling the old adage, “be careful what you wish for” as forest fires, drought and pestilence invite biblical comparisons.
More worrisome, though, than the sight of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia wilting under 30 degree [Celsius; 86°F] temperatures in June and July — and rationing scarce water supplies in some areas — is that this might just be the start of an even bigger problem.
Many meteorologists are chalking up today’s weird and wacky weather in the West to the fact that this is an El Nino year, referring to the cyclical Pacific Ocean phenomenon that disrupts global weather patterns.
The problem with that, according to Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips: “It’s not even arrived in Canada yet.”
“We don’t see the effects of El Nino until late fall, winter and early spring,” he says.
What that likely means is at least three more consecutive seasons of warmer, drier weather when farmers are already, quite literally, tapped out in the moisture department.
As for what that could mean for drought conditions next summer and beyond, Phillips says it’s “not looking good.”
So the drought will likely continue through next year at least. Again, not good. “Game over” for ranchers:
Canada’s Prairies have just experienced their driest winter and spring in 68 years of record keeping. “So they were behind the eight-ball before the summer season ever came,” says Phillips.
That, coupled with a record low snow pack in North America, and few of the traditional June rains needed to grow crops, has had a cumulative effect that’s hit some producers harder than others.
Says Phillips: “For ranchers it’s pretty much game over.”
The tinder dry land has kept pastures for grazing cattle from turning green and producing feed, forcing cattle ranchers to sell down their herds or ship the animals around looking for alternative feed sources.
“Our cereal fields, our oats, our wheat, our barley essentially baked in the field,” says Garett Broadbent, agricultural services director for Alberta’s Leduc County, just south of Edmonton.
The municipality voted unanimously this week to declare a local state of agricultural disaster as soil moisture and crop conditions continue to decline to the worst levels in half a century.
And here’s a NOAA scientist saying that there is a trend, and it will continue “as long as greenhouse gas levels continue to rise year after year”:
NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden says, in addition to the dwindling snow pack, “glaciers are melting, sea ice is melting, sea levels reached record highs last year, the ocean heat was record high last year, sea surface temperatures were record highs last year, so you put it all together and there’s a definite trend.”
It’s a trend Blunden expects to continue into 2015 and beyond as long as, she says, greenhouse gas levels continue to rise year after year.
“We have 15 years to avert a full-blown water crisis; by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent”
You are a clear and present danger to my grandchildren’s future. Fear me.
When you dumb down the population and send their jobs overseas…
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — When a 32-foot replica killer whale buzzed through the water to scare off hundreds of sea lions piled on Oregon docks, onlookers cheered. And then the dummy orca went belly-up.
The motorized fiberglass orca was brought to the seaside town of Astoria on Thursday as a sort of maritime Clint Eastwood — called upon to deal with ne’er-do-wells, in this case sea lions crowding onto docks and making it difficult for locals to access their boats.
But the orca’s first day on the job was a flop.
About 1,000 people cheered as the dummy whale — with its human operator inside — took to the water Thursday night. Jim Knight, executive director of the Port of Astoria, said sea lions that were crowded onto the docks became “deathly silent.”
But as a cargo ship passed by, the phony orca started to list from the vessel’s wake. And then the bogus orca capsized.
“Our crew from the port had to go rescue the operator so he didn’t drown,” Knight said.
So what did the sea lions think about this spectacle?
They probably think it’s dead now that it’s belly up…
So put down the Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on Fox Kool-Aid and turn off the television, because you have just lived through the hottest January through April on record, and it is increasingly likely that 2015 will be the hottest year on record, possibly by a wide margin.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has just predicted a 90 percent chance that the El Niño it declared in March will last through the summer and “a greater than 80 percent chance it will last through 2015.” El Niños generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend.
And in fact, with April, we have once again broken the record for the hottest 12 months on record: May 2014 – April 2015. The previous record was April 2014 – March 2015, set last month. The record before that was March 2014 – February 2015. And the equally short-lived record before that was February 2014 – January 2015.
As we keep breaking records in 2015, our headlines are going to sound like a … broken record. May has already started out hot, and it is quite likely next month we will report “The Hottest 5-Month Start Of Any Year On Record,” and that June 2014 – May 2015 will become hottest 12 months on record.
You are a clear and present danger to my grandchildren’s future.
I often suggest a variation of Pascal’s Wager: If I am wrong, if the climate is not changing, the world not warming to in-habitability in my grand-childrens’ generation, I don’t lose a bloody damned thing. If you, the denier, are wrong, we all lose, our grand-children lose, the only world we know of we can live on. End of the road, way of the dinosaurs… extinction. Do you want to take that bet?
We do not forgive. We do not forget.
I am not going to stop suggesting a twenty-first century variation of Pascal’s Wager; Pascal of course the seventeenth century philosopher, mathematician and physicist who so frightened The Church that his head to this day resides pickled in a jar somewhere in the catacombs of the Vatican. Simply put: If I am wrong, if the climate is not changing, the world not warming to in-habitability in my grand-childrens’ generation, I don’t lose a bloody damned thing. If you, the denier, are wrong, we all lose, our grand-children lose, the only world we know of we can live on. End of the road, dinosaurs… extinction. Do you want to take that bet?
Snowfall on Half-dome in Yosemite Valley on March 19 of 2012 and 2015
There was certainly no shortage of water in the Northeast this winter. Boston and several other communities saw record snowfall. But in other parts of the North America, a swinging jet stream exacerbated an already dire prolonged drought, stretching the breadth of the entire Southwest, from California to Texas. Even parts of the Midwest bread basket are thirsty.
There are two factors driving the drought: growth, and climate change. As the population increases, demand on surface water and aquifers grows relentlessly. The dipping, winding jet stream, a phenomenon tentatively linked to amplified warming of the Arctic, denies water to much of the western half of the US while dropping more than needed further east. It’s a fair prediction that there will be no relief in terms of reduced population growth or mitigating changes in climate anytime soon. But we don’t have to count on lucky rainstorms to relieve water shortages. There are other solutions.
The Canadian Wetback running for President…
Cruzing for a Fact-Check Bruising: “Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has announced he’s running for President in 2016. This means it’s going to be a busy campaign season for fact checkers, who have already started the Sisyphean task of correcting Cruz. […] Chris Mooney demonstrated one way for journalists to deal with presidential climate claims by contacting a climate scientist, who made it clear that Cruz was cherry-picking. Michelle Ye Hee Lee examined the satellite comment for WaPo’s Fact Checker column, giving Cruz ‘Three Pinnochios’ for his misleading statements.
Philip Bump took a critical look at Cruz’s comparison of deniers to Galileo and other comments, stating, ‘There’s not much Cruz got right.’ Most amusing (and original) would be Mooney’s column on Cruz’s Galileo defense. Mooney points out that, first and foremost, Cruz botched the history, saying, “Galileo was branded a denier,” for not accepting that the Earth was flat. This is just plain wrong, because Galileo’s ordeal was about whether the Earth orbited the Sun. Going further, Mooney contacted some historians, who made it clear that when it comes to the Galileo comparison, deniers are off base. One science historian pointed out that Galileo wasn’t attacked by scientists (as Cruz suggests) but by “the power structure of his day.’ And in modern times, ‘Climate contrarians are on the side of, and are supported by, the power structure of our day, which is the Republican Party and the carbon-combustion complex.'” [emphasis added]
It is a clear and present danger to my grand-children’s future.
Yes, “it”. It isn’t human. It is less than sufficiently evolved, less than human.
“I’m getting hot,” croaked the frog as he floated in a pot of water from which steam was beginning to rise.
“Me too,” croaked the other frog as she paddled listlessly. “This water used to be warm. Now it’s too hot.”
“Oh well…nothing we can do about it. Maybe it’ll get better.”
“Let’s enjoy what we can,” she croaked. “We’ll listen to the music and watch the pictures on the ceiling that keep changing. They’re pretty.”
“OK…I’m feeling dreamy.”
As the water simmered, the frogs slipped into a stupor; they were unconscious as they began to boil.