Iran Increases Its Hegemony (Daniel 8:4)


IRAN UNVEILS WEAPONS, CONTINUES SPONSORSHIP OF TERROR IN PALESTINE, IRAQ, AND AT HOME

03 March 2016

By INU Staff

INU- On Monday, it was reported by News Agencies that Iran had once again held an unveiling ceremony for new domestically produced military equipment. The report also indicates that two of the five pieces in question indicate that “the leading state sponsor of terrorism is earnestly preparing for chemical warfare.”

For critics of the Iranian regime, this adds to concerns about the sorts of resources that the Islamic Republic will be able to either use illicitly or distribute to terrorist groups beyond its borders. These concerns were already amplified in recent weeks by news of discussions regarding the possible purchase of advanced weapons from Russia.

Now “arewelivinginthelastdays.com” quotes Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan as saying that the Iranian armed forces have “foiled” the intentions underlying Western-led sanctions on Iran’s trade in weapons, and that they would continue to do so in the future. Dehqan said it is an “important mission” for Iran to develop “advanced and sophisticated defensive equipment” like that which was unveiled on Monday.

This anti-Western rhetoric underscores the motives behind much of Iran’s support for global terrorism. This was explained, for instance, in a Media Linereport on Monday regarding conflicts between Iran and the Palestinian Authority regarding recently-announced Iranian plans to make cash payments to perpetrators of attacks on Israel and to Palestinians whose home are lost as a result.
The report notes that Iran intends to circumvent existing Palestinian institutions and deliver these payments directly to their recipients, thereby circumventing the PA’s authority and securing a more direct Iranian foothold in Palestine. Media Line reports that Iran is able to justify such moves by characterizing the PA as an “American tool” and insufficiently adversarial toward Israel.

Such commentary strongly suggests that Iranian activities in the region are aimed not only at asserting its own power but also specifically at challenging Western power or the perception thereof. This project has led to attacks on American targets in years past, and many critics of recent Western policy toward Iran are fearful that the same will happen again. Some such critics are taking their own steps to confront Iran over its past and potential support for terrorism.

That side of Western policy circles scored a small victory recently when the Middle East and North Africa Financial Network reported that Americans were likely to gain access to well over 2 billion dollars in Iranian assets, to be claimed as compensation for the victims of past Iranian terrorist attacks. The figure is based on the expectation that a pending case will come to a similar conclusion as one that determined last week that victims of terrorism could intercept funds due to be paid to Iran by the United States over business disputes stemming from before the Islamic Revolution.

More claims and judgments of this kind are likely to follow, in light of the seriousness with which some of Iran’s critics are looking at recent changes in Western policy toward Iran. MENAFN quoted a lawyer involved in the case as saying, “The Islamic Republic needs to understand that these court judgments have not been canceled and that the terrorism victims will continue to pursue them in legal forums all over the world. They don’t forgive and they aren’t going to forget either.”

Some Western legislators are striving to supplement these financial penalties with expansion of the kinds of sanctions that the Iranian defense minister dismissed in his recent comments. The lifting of sanctions under the July 14 nuclear agreement has opened up the possibilities for Iran to restore its diminished oil economy. But Iran has substantial ambitions, including a one million barrel per day boost in output, which will require foreign investment and stable economic resources.

CNN reported on Monday that these ambitions remained in place and Iran was no closer to cooperating with an OPEC-Russian plan to freeze oil output in an attempt to stabilize prices. Deputy Iranian Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia reaffirmed this commitment to non-cooperation, saying, “We do not intend to sanction ourselves again after coming out of the sanctions.”

This is latest in a series of statements that highlighted the ongoing competition between Iran and leading OPEC member Saudi Arabia. It is a conflict that relates not only to Iran’s sanctions status but also its support for terrorism as the two Middle Eastern countries vie for both economic and military influence in various areas of the region.

Iran’s sponsorship of Yemeni rebels and the Syrian government has been well-publicized, and the Saudis have become increasingly involved on the opposite sides in an attempt to forestall the projection of Iranian strength. Iran’s actions in Palestine have also received some attention in the Israeli media at a time when the Saudis and Israelis have shown signs of greater willingness to cooperate against a mutual enemy.

What has received comparatively little attention is Iran’s ongoing influence in neighboring Iraq, which is a minor partner in a burgeoning alliance among Iran, Syria, Russia, and Hezbollah. But on Monday, Assist News Service reported upon some of the latest terrorist activities that have served to solidify Iranian power in certain areas of Iraq.

The report notes that Shiite militant groups that are operating in Iraq under the direction of Iranian military advisers and often on the basis of Iranian recruitment have been driving Iraqi Christians from their homes and stealing their assets en masse as part of an apparent ongoing project to establish sharper sectarian boundaries in the region.

This same goal is arguably a driving force in Iranian state terrorism in its own border areas, namely in the province of Iranian-Pakistani province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which has been described as a hotbed for Sunni rebels, and also for the drug trade. The latter was used as the justification for a wave of recent executions in Iran, but Fox News reported on Monday that the crackdown was so severe that the entire adult male population of one village was killed on accusation of drug trafficking.
Assuming that such crackdowns are aimed at reasserting the regimes control over the physical and cultural environment, they reflect other types of crackdowns closer to Iran’s populated areas. Iran News Update has extensively reported upon the ongoing political arrests and obstructions of free speech, especially in the months since the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers. And still accusations of that crackdown continue to accumulate, with one of the latest concerning the conclusion of a case involving two Iranian musicians and a filmmaker.

IranWire reported on Monday that an Iranian court had sentenced Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian, and Yousef Emadi to three years in prison plus a three year suspended sentence as punishment for their efforts to promote and disseminate the work of Iranian alternative musicians. A separate IranWire report indicated that the repressive environment represented by these sentences has contributed to a “mass exodus” of Iranian television and film personalities, which has “greatly accelerated” as a result of rising levels of access to information from outside of the country.
In the midst of recent developments, the continued flow of this information can be expected to expose not only the freedoms that are available in foreign democracies but also the full range of activities being carried out by the Iranian government against targets both within the country and in the broader Middle Eastern region.

Pakistan Nuclear Stockpile Grows (Daniel 8)

US Concerned Over Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons: Official

Washington:  The US is concerned over Pakistan’s fast-expanding stockpile of nuclear weapons which in combination with evolving doctrine increases the risk of an “accident”, a top pentagon official has said.

“Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile continues to grow. We are concerned that this growth, as well as the evolving doctrine associated with tactical nuclear weapons, increases the risk of an incident or accident,” Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, Director of Defense Intelligence Agency told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

“Islamabad continues to take steps to improve its nuclear security, and is aware of the threat presented by extremists to its programme,” he said during his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on Worldwide Threats.

Pakistan will face internal security threats from terrorist, sectarian and separatist groups this year, he said, adding that ISIS in Khorasan and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent will also remain significant security concerns for Islamabad.

Counterinsurgency operations along Pakistan’s Western border and paramilitary operations in Karachi have had some success in reducing violence and are likely to continue, he said.

Tensions between India and Pakistan subsided in late last year following high-level diplomatic engagement and an agreement to continue the talks next year, he added.

However, there remains a significant risk that tensions could once again escalate with little warning, particularly if there is a large-scale terrorist attack in India, Mr Stewart said.

Pakistan has ruled out any change in its “dynamic” policy of increasing its nuclear weapons, dismissing the US’ request in this regard citing India’s rapid military modernisation.

Our nuclear capacity is a deterrent against Indian capacity. Deterrent is not a static concept. It is a dynamic concept. If your adversary goes on expanding its capacity then you have to respond. It is not something that you can take something for granted,” Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs advisor to Pakistan’s prime minister said yesterday.

Russian Horn Shows Its Military Might (Daniel 7)

Russia to Launch Massive Ballistic Missile Test From Nuclear Subs

Izvestia reports that volley of 16 IBMs will be launched from two nuclear-powered submarines while moving in choppy seas.

Haaretz Mar 03, 2016 9:33 PM
3897710082
Russia is about to test-launch a volley of intercontinental ballistic missiles from nuclear-powered submarines, during an exercise to test the combat readiness of its nuclear deterrence forces, according to a report in the newspaper Izvestia.

The missiles will include the new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile, which is intended as the future cornerstone of Russia’s nuclear capability and is the country’s most expensive weapons project.

The missiles will be fired by two Borei-class nuclear-powered submarines, the Yuri Dolgoruky and the Vladimir Monomakh, Izvestiya reported, quoting a source at the Northern Fleet’s headquarters.
The Bulava entered service with the Yuri Dolgoruky in January 2013.

The launch, which is expected to take place in the Barents Sea, will test the submarines’ ability to fire 16 IBMs while moving at a depth of 50 meters in choppy seas.

It will be only the fourth such exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Previous tests have had very mixed success, according to Pravda newspaper.

“Last year, the Vladimir Monomakh fired two missiles from under the water. However, one of the missiles self-destructed, and the other one did not pass the test for accuracy,” Pravda wrote.

“The remaining missiles were sent back to the manufacturer to determine the causes of the failure. It was established that the failure occurred because of production defects.”

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/1.706931

North Korea Now Threatening Nuclear War

N. Korea threatens nuclear attacks after severe U.N. sanctions

  • AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered his country’s nuclear weapons made ready for use at a moment’s notice, the country’s official state news agency reported Friday.
Kim also said his country will ready its military so it is prepared to carry out pre-emptive attacks, calling the current situation very precarious, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The threats in the statement are part of the authoritarian nation’s regular propaganda effort to show strength in the face of what it sees as an effort by its enemies South Korea and the United States to overthrow its leaders; it follows harsh U.N. sanctions over the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch and comes ahead of joint U.S.-South Korean war games this month that the North claims are invasion preparations.

North Korea has threatened nuclear war in the past, but it is unclear just how advanced the country’s nuclear program really is. Pyongyang is thought to have a handful of crude atomic bombs, but there is considerable outside debate about whether it is technologically able to shrink a warhead and mount it on a missile.

“The only way for defending the sovereignty of our nation and its right to existence under the present extreme situation is to bolster up nuclear force both in quality and quantity,” the North’s dispatch Friday said, paraphrasing Kim Jong Un. It said that Kim stressed “the need to get the nuclear warheads deployed for national defense always on standby so as to be fired any moment.”

On Thursday, North Korea fired six short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast, South Korean officials said, just hours after the U.N. Security Council approved the toughest sanctions on the North in two decades.

The firings also came shortly after South Korea’s National Assembly passed its first legislation on human rights in North Korea.

The North Korean projectiles, fired from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan, flew about 100 to 150 kilometers (60 to 90 miles) before landing in the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

North Korea routinely test-fires missiles and rockets, but often conducts weapons launches when angered at international condemnation.

Thursday’s firings were seen as a “low-level” response to the U.N. sanctions, with North Korea unlikely to launch any major provocation until its landmark ruling Workers’ Party convention in May, according to Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

North Korean citizens in the capital, Pyongyang, interviewed by The Associated Press said Thursday they believe their country can fight off any sanctions.

“No kind of sanctions will ever work on us, because we’ve lived under U.S. sanctions for more than half a century,” said Pyongyang resident Song Hyo Il. “And in the future, we’re going to build a powerful and prosperous country here, relying on our own development.”

North Korean state media earlier warned that the imposition of new sanctions would be a “grave provocation” that shows “extreme” U.S. hostility against the country. It said the sanctions would not result in the country’s collapse or prevent it from launching more rockets.

The U.N. sanctions include mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by land, sea or air; a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to the North; and the expulsion of North Korean diplomats who engage in “illicit activities.”

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China, North Korea’s closest ally, hoped the U.N. sanctions would be implemented “comprehensively and seriously,” while harm to ordinary North Korean citizens would be avoided.

At the United Nations, Russia’s ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, asked about the North’s firing of short-range projectiles, said, “It means that they’re not drawing the proper conclusions yet.”
Japan’s U.N. ambassador, Motohide Yoshikawa, said, “That’s their way of reacting to what we have decided.”

“They may do something more,” Yoshikawa said. “So we will see.”

In January, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. Last month, it put a satellite into orbit with a long-range rocket that the United Nations and others saw as a cover for a test of banned ballistic missile technology.

Just before the U.N. sanctions were unanimously adopted, South Korea’s National Assembly passed a bill that would establish a center tasked with collecting, archiving and publishing information about human rights in North Korea. It is required to transfer that information to the Justice Ministry, a step parliamentary officials say would provide legal grounds to punish rights violators in North Korea when the two Koreas eventually reunify.

The Ramapo Fault and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Living on the Fault Line

Posted June 15, 2010 by Wayne J. Guglielmo
Ramapo_Fault_Line

This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
***********************
Planning for the Big One
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in Mahwah, near the Ramapo Fault.