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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 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.
So put down the ambien, prozac, viagra and criotch-shots on Fox Kool-Aid and turn off the television, because sealevels may rise 10 times faster than previous thought:
The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, brings new importance to a feedback loop in the ocean near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate. Hansen, who is known for being alarmist and also right, acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates. In a conference call with reporters, he said he hoped the new findings would be “substantially more persuasive than anything previously published.” I certainly find them to be.
To come to their findings, the authors used a mixture of paleoclimate records, computer models, and observations of current rates of sea level rise, but “the real world is moving somewhat faster than the model,” Hansen says.
Hansen’s study does not attempt to predict the precise timing of the feedback loop, only that it is “likely” to occur this century. The implications are mindboggling: In the study’s likely scenario, New York City—and every other coastal city on the planet—may only have a few more decades of habitability left. That dire prediction, in Hansen’s view, requires “emergency cooperation among nations.”
We conclude that continued high emissions will make multi-meter sea level rise practically unavoidable and likely to occur this century. Social disruption and economic consequences of such large sea level rise could be devastating. It is not difficult to imagine that conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse might make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.
You are a clear and present danger to my grand-children’s survival.
Something needs to be done about that.
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.
When the bees are gone, in four years we will be gone.
Two new studies, both published by the journal Nature, are once again indicting the pesticide group, neonicotinoids, as having adverse affects on bee populations.
A pair of new studies published Wednesday in Nature are disturbing when taken separately, but so much more chilling when laid out next to each other: The first provides new evidence that neonicotinoid insecticides can have a negative effect on bees, adding weight to the theory that these chemicals could contribute to colony collapse disorder and endanger our food supply. In the second study, another group of researchers found that bees don’t avoid these harmful pesticides. They may actually seek them out and get addicted to them.
This class of insecticide has been highly controversial, with heated debate, but the data keeps coming in, and piling up, to the point that even the industry-coddling EPA has called for a moratorium on April 2nd, 2015, at long last joining the European Union which also placed a moratorium on the pesticide. It seems that step by step, blow by blow, the critics are being proven correct about the harmful affects of the chemical.
There’s more. You are a clear and present danger to my grandchildren’s futute.
Good bad or in different, it’s here.
I’m worried about what’s on the other side of it.
You should too, if you’re on my list. You will pay for what you have done.
When the bees are gone, in four years we will be gone.
Natural Society Portland, Oregon has joined at least seven other cities in banning the usage of neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides that many scientists think is behind colony collapse disorder and the premature death and dysfunction of many bees and other pollinating insects. The ban applies to all city lands and will be enforced despite the opposition of some nearby farmers who claim neonicotinoids are critical for producing their food crops.
Neonicotinoids are highly neurotoxic, sharing a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in their paralysis and death. Pollinating insects are essential for the growth of numerous crops, including apples, plums, broccoli, peppers, cabbage, Brazil nuts, and cashews.
In 2008, neonicotinoids were scrutinized for their environmental impact in Germany, where they were linked with several adverse ecological effects. In 2013, the EU and some other European countries banned use of certain members of the neonicotinoid family.
Meanwhile, the USDA took a broad look into the decline of bee colonies in the country. Their report highlighted the fact that in 1990, there were 3 million bee colonies. By 2013, that number had dropped to 2.5 million, demonstrating that the collapse is a long-term issue. Though their report was dire for insects and people, it did not offer any immediate solutions. Soon after it was released, the EPA approved a fourth generation neonicotinoid, known as sulfoxaflor, an action that left many followers of the situation dumbfounded.
In 2014, tens of millions of bees were found dead in Ontario Canada, just days after a planting of genetically modified corn. Ontario’s The Post reported that the crops were sprayed with neonicotinoids produced by Bayer CropScience. The air seeding of neonicotinoid-treated GM corn was seen as and accelerating factor in the bee losses. It is likely that in most parts of North America the reason neonicotinoids continue to be permitted is heavy influence from the chemical industry.
Because the federal government has refused to do anything about the havoc being caused by neonicotinoids, dealing with it has become the province of the states and municipalities. In 2013, Eugene Oregon was the first city to ban its use. Since then, efforts have centered around the Pacific Northwest, with Seattle and Spokane in Washington joining in.
One recent example can be seen with Amanda Fritz, Commissioner of Portland, who was successful in gaining approval of the measure to ban neonicotinoids on city lands such as gardens and municipal parks by presenting it as a public health issue requiring emergency action.
“I think we’re doing another good thing for the city of Portland, Oregon…and maybe the entire world,” she said.
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.
So put down the Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on Fox Kool-Aid and turn off the television, because the coldest place on Earth just got warmer than has ever been recorded.
According to the weather blog Weather Underground, on Tuesday, March 24, the temperature in Antarctica rose to 63.5°F (17.5C) — a record for the polar continent. Part of a longer heat wave, the record high came just a day after the previous record was set at 63.3°F.
These temperature records occurred nearly three months past the warmest time of year in the Antarctic Peninsula, December, when the average high is 37.8°F. The average high for March is 31.3°F, making this week’s records more than 30°F above average. Burt also points out that temperature records for Esperanza have previously occurred in October and April, so these spikes are not unheard of.
They should also not be unexpected: the poles are warming faster than any part of the planet and rapid ice melt is being observed at increased rates in Antarctica. According to a new study, ice shelves in West Antarctica have lost as much as 18 percent of their volume over the last two decades, with rapid acceleration occurring over the last decade. The study found that from 1994 to 2003, the overall loss of ice shelf volume across the continent was negligible, but over the last decade West Antarctic losses increased by 70 percent.
According to the British Antarctic Survey, since records for the Antarctic Peninsula began half a century ago, the average temperature has risen about 5°F, making it “the most rapidly warming region in the Southern Hemisphere – comparable to rapidly warming regions of the Arctic.”
While the polar regions are feeling the most severe temperature changes brought on by the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, areas across the globe are setting record highs at a much faster rate than record lows. Since 2010, 46 nations or territories out of 235 have set or tied record highs. Only four have set record lows. According to the Weather Underground, so far this year, five nations or territories have tied or set all-time records for their highest temperature: Antarctica, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Wallis and Futuna Territory, and Samoa.
You are a clear and present danger to my grand-children’s future. Fear me.
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.