Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses.Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

The Ignorance of Fighting Against Iran

US would need ‘one million soldiers’ to invade Iran, warns Brit admiral

US FORCES would need at least one million soldiers to defeat and occupy Iran in what could be another Iraq War-style quagmire, a top Brit admiral has warned.

US would win war against Iran in ‚two strikes‘ says Senator

Iran and the US have been at loggerheads in recent weeks as Washington dispatched warships and warplanes to the region citing “credible threats’” from Tehran.

Admiral Lord West – the former First Sea Lord of the Royal navy – gave a dire assessment of the potential conflict as tempers flare int he Middle East.

He told Daily Star Online the US would need at least one million troops to successfully pacify Iran, and a half-baked attack could throw the region further into chaos. 

The 50-year Royal Navy veteran warned “idiots” in both the US and Iran are dangerously hyping tensions. 

It comes amid disputed reports the US is dusting off Iraq War-era plans to deploy 120,000 troops to the region.

He urged the West to do more to come to the table with Iran or face the possibility of a “nuclear war in the Middle East”.

Iran is restarting its missile programme in response to US sanctions would started a new arms race with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the admiral warned. 

“You would need a million men”

Admiral Lord West

Admiral Lord West told Daily Star Online: “I think Donald Trump himself doesn’t want there to be a conflict – but there are powerful factions in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US who believe an attack would be a good thing. 

“This includes John Bolton. They think they would destroy the Iranian armed forces, there would be regime change, and all the garden would be rosy. 

“The only problem with that is – they would be completely wrong.”

He added: “They don’t want to invade Iran, they went there to be a nice fold over into a new regime. 

“And if you don’t get that, then you get this hostile regime causing mayhem in the region with terrorist proxies and missiles.

“Invading Iran, taking it over, and then coercing into becoming a different sort of country, you would need a million men. “

BREAKING POINT: Iran has accused the US of waging a ‚psychological war‘ on them (Pic: GETTY)

Admiral West – who was the last man to leave the sinking HMS Ardent during the Falklands War – described sabre rattling from both sides as “extremely dangerous”. 

US forces have sent aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and a group of B-52 bombers to the Middle East as they publicly cite an imminent danger posed by Iran.

British general Chris Ghika undermined the US warnings on Iran, saying there is “no increased threat” – as Washington evacuated “non-emergency” staff from its missions in Iraq. 

US Central Command however contradicted Major General Ghia – saying his comments “run counter to identified credible threats available to intelligence from the US and allies”. 

Tehran has reportedly moved missile boats in the Persian Gulf, and the US suspect the regime of being behind sabotage attacks on four oil tankers. 

Royal Navy hero Admiral West said while Iran is a “bloody nuisance” – US politicians are making a mistake in thinking it would a “quick war” like “lancing a boil”.

RING OF STEEL: USS Abraham Lincoln and her strike group have moved into the Middle East (Pic: GETTY)

SWOOP: B-52 Bombers have been deployed to Qatar by the US (Pic: GETTY)

WAR HAWKS: Donald Trump is being advised by Iran on John Bolton (Pic: GETTY)

He told Daily Star Online: “If the US and Britain couldn’t beat Iran in a straight bang-on-bang contest they we should all go home.

“But what we can’t do unless we go onto a war footing and having conscription is have a sufficient number of troops to go occupy the country.

“It is such dangerous loose talk, and its all well and good being ‘aren’t we clever, we can shoot down your planes and sink your ships’ – but you haven’t finishing winning the war.

“That what the real problem is and thats what these idiots who are saying lets go to war with Iran don’t understand.

“I don’t think they are clever enough to understand, they know nothing about wars.” 

NAVY HERO: Admiral Lord West was formerly the First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy (Pic: PA)

Iran: Tensions with US at a ‘dangerous point’ says expert

Admiral West compared a possible conflict to the Iraq War, and feared should the US attack the same failures would happen during “Phase IV”. 

“Phase IV” referred to the stabilisation of a nation after winning the initial engagements.

The invasion of Iraq lasted just over a month, followed by eight years of violence and turmoil.

“The US said they were handling it, but we all know they didn’t have a bloody clue what was happening. Iraq’s in a bloody mess” Admiral West said. 

He added Iranian-funded terrorist would continue to cause chaos in the Middle East.

And there would be the threat of more wide-ranging missile attacks unless all the regime’s secret bases can be knocked out in one swoop.

ON THE MARCH: USS Abraham Lincoln sails down the Suez Canal amid the threat from Iran (Pic: REUTERS)

Admiral West added however he considers Iran’s current regime a “bigger problem” than Iraq in 2003. 

He still however urged caution, adding an attack on Iran could also destabilise the global economy due to the risk to shipping in the Gulf. 

“Until you have destroyed all the Iranian swarm vessels, their mines, their submarines and their aircraft, no one is going to want to take a tanker through there,” he said.

“The impact of the global economy would be huge.”

Urging more talks he called for the US to end “draconian sanctions” that might push Iran toward restarting their nuclear programme. 

FEARS: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has urged his people to stay strong amid threats (Pic: EPA)

And Admiral West aded should a conflict erupt between the US and Iran, Britain will inevitably be roped into the war. 

Britain will so how have to be ready to defend ourselves and we will be dragged into it.

“Our forces are so folded in with the Americans, and the Iranians will assume we are involved,” he said.

“Britain will have to be ready to defend itself.”

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned Trump is being “pushed towards war” by people around him.

And the US President has said he wants to avoid conflict, saying “I hope note” when asked if the US are going to war with Iran.

Antichrist Warns about Upcoming War

Iraqi Shiite figures warn US-Iran war could ‚burn‘ Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Leading Iraqi Shiite figures warned Monday against attempts to pull their country into a war between the U.S. and Iran, saying it would turn Iraq into a battlefield yet again, just as it is on the path to recovery.

The warning came hours after a rocket slammed into Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. No injuries were reported and no group immediately claimed the Sunday night attack.

Shortly after, President Donald Trump tweeted a warning to Iran not to threaten the United States or it will face its „official end.“

Last week, the U.S. ordered the evacuation of nonessential diplomatic staff from Iraq amid unspecified threats from Iran and rising tensions across the region. The White House has also sent warships and bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter the alleged Iranian threats.

Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul tweeted Monday that the army command in Baghdad is working „day and night“ to guarantee the security of citizens, foreign missions and international and local companies.

On Monday, two influential Shiite clerics and a leading politician — all with close ties to Iran — warned that Iraq could once again get caught in the middle. The country hosts more than 5,000 U.S. troops, and is home to powerful Iranian-backed militias, some of whom want those U.S. forces to leave.

Populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said any political party that would drag Iraq in a U.S.-Iran war „would be the enemy of the Iraqi people.“

„This war would mark the end of Iraq,“ the black-turbaned al-Sadr warned. „We need peace and reconstruction.“

The influential cleric’s statements were echoed by the Shiite militias, which appeared to distance themselves from Sunday’s attack.

Qais al-Khazali, the leader the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous group, tweeted that he is opposed to operations that „give pretexts for war“ and added that they would only „harm Iraq’s political, economic and security conditions.“

A spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah said the rocket attack was „unjustified“ and suggested a third party was trying to provoke a war, citing Israel or Saudi Arabia.

For the Shiite-majority Iraq to be a theater for proxy wars is not new. It lies on the fault line between Shiite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world, led by powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and has long been the setting where Saudi-Iran rivalry for regional supremacy played out.

After America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq to oust dictator Saddam Hussein, American troops and Iranian-backed militiamen fought pitched battles around the country, and scores of U.S. troops were killed or wounded by sophisticated Iranian-made weapons.

The office of Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of a coalition of Shiite paramilitary forces backed by both Baghdad and Tehran, released a statement calling on Iraqis to work together „to keep Iraq and the region away from war.“

If war breaks out … it will burn everyone,“ al-Amiri warned.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Missile Targeted at US Embassy

Saudis Issue a Warning

A top minister addresses Iran

(Newser) – Saudi Arabia does not want war but will not hesitate to defend itself against Iran, a top Saudi diplomat said Sunday, after the kingdom’s energy sector was targeted this past week amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf, the AP reports. On Sunday night, a rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone, landing less than a mile from the US Embassy, further stoking tensions. No casualties were reported in the apparent attack. Adel al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke a week after four oil tankers—two of them Saudi—were targeted in an alleged act of sabotage off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and days after Iran-allied Yemeni rebels claimed a drone attack on a Saudi oil pipeline.

„The kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not want war in the region and does not strive for that … but at the same time, if the other side chooses war, the kingdom will fight this with all force and determination and it will defend itself, its citizens and its interests,“ al-Jubeir told reporters. A senior Iranian military commander was similarly quoted as saying his country is not looking for war. Fears of armed conflict were already running high after the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region earlier this month to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran. The US also has ordered nonessential staff out of its diplomatic posts in Iraq. But President Donald Trump appears to have softened his tone in recent days, saying he expects Iran to seek negotiations with his administration.

The Iran horn quadruples production of enriched uranium

Reports: Iran quadruples production of enriched uranium

(Newser) – Iran quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity amid tensions with the US over Tehran’s atomic program, nuclear officials said Monday, just after President Trump and Iran’s foreign minister traded threats and taunts on Twitter. Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon, the AP reports. But by increasing production, Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations set by the accord. Tehran has set a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with new terms for the deal, or it will enrich closer to weapons-grade levels in a Middle East already on edge. The Trump administration has deployed bombers and an aircraft carrier to the region over still-unspecified threats from Iran.

Already this month, officials in the United Arab Emirates alleged that four oil tankers were damaged in a sabotage attack; Yemeni rebels allied with Iran launched a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia; and US diplomats relayed a warning that commercial airlines could be misidentified by Iran and attacked, something dismissed by Tehran. A rocket landed Sunday near the US Embassy in the Green Zone of Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, days after nonessential US staff were ordered to evacuate from diplomatic posts in the country. The Iranian enrichment announcement came after local journalists traveled to Natanz in central Iran, the country’s underground enrichment facility. There, an unidentified nuclear scientist gave a statement with a surgical cap and a mask covering most of his face. The state-run IRNA news agency later quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as acknowledging that capacity had been quadrupled.

The Coming War with Iran

IRGC commander: Iran is on the brink of an ‘all-out clash with the enemy’

The Iranian leadership continues to prepare for further economic, political and military tensions with the United States, while the United States continues to build up its military forces in the Persian Gulf region.

The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group is already in the area, and the crippling U.S. sanctions will continue. In Iran, the top echelon of the regime headed by Supreme Leader Khamenei is preparing public opinion for an ongoing confrontation with the United States—the “Great Satan”—and particularly for the anticipated economic hardship, framing it as part of what the regime calls the “struggle economy.” In reality, the economy keeps deteriorating rapidly, with growing shortages and skyrocketing prices of consumer goods.

In the regional arena as well, tensions are mounting. On May 14, 2019, the Yemeni Houthis—who are under Iran’s influence in Yemen—used seven GPS-guided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to attack the Aramco East-West pipeline’s pumping stations in Saudi territory in the Dawadmi and Afif regions.

Saudi facilities hit. Source: Houthi-controlled al-Masirah TV.

A United Nations report submitted to the U.N. Security Council in January 2018 found compelling evidence that Houthi-made “Qatef” drones had an almost identical construction and capabilities as the Iranian “Ababil” UAV.

On May 12, 2019, Saudi, Norwegian and UAE oil tankers were sabotaged near the shore of the Fujairah emirate in the Gulf of Oman.

In both cases, Iran signaled that amid the tightening sanctions and deepening economic crisis it is capable of pinpoint strikes on sensitive oil infrastructure in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, as well as in the heart of the Saudi oil industry.

Middle East oil facilities vulnerable to Iranian attack: No. 1 is the East-West Saudi pipeline. In the inset, No. 7, is a map of the Habshan-Fujeirah pipeline that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz.

The attack on the Aramco oil infrastructure highlights the persistent threat of Houthi unmanned weapon systems targeting vital onshore and offshore Saudi and Saudi-affiliated sites.

The targeted pipeline was built during the Iran-Iraq war as an alternative for Saudi Arabia should the Strait of Hormuz be blocked. The oil terminal at the port of Fujairah where Saudi tankers were sabotaged is another such alternative.

The message sent to the UAE and/or Saudi Arabia by these attacks was thus that “we know where your vulnerabilities are.”

Thus, the attacks near the port of Fujairah and in Saudi territory are symbolic. The Emirates serve as an outlet for an oil pipeline that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz and originates in Habshan in Abu Dhabi. As for the drone attack, it marks the first time that the Houthis—aided in their use of missiles and drones by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese Hezbollah—have hit a target nearly 500 miles from the Yemeni border (assuming the drones were not launched from Saudi territory).

Significantly, after the latest incident the Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, published a cartoon that glorifies the Houthis defeating Saudi Arabia.3 In the cartoon: a traditional Houthi dagger (jambiya) with a hilt in the form of a drone breaks the Saudi sword.

“The armed forces of Yemen carried out an operation deep in Saudi territory.” Source: Tasnim News Agency.

The Houthis have attacked Saudi Arabia and the UAE with drones and missiles in the past. In July 2018, a drone exploded at Abu Dhabi airport causing minor damage and sending a strong message to the UAE, which plays a dominant role in the southern parts of Yemen. In January 2019, a senior intelligence chief and senior officials were killed at the al-Anad air force base just outside Aden by a weaponized drone that exploded above them as they attended a military parade.

Given the recent incidents in Fujairah and Saudi Arabia, if the United States or one of its regional allies reveals clear intelligence that Iran was behind the attack on the Saudi tankers, it could lead to the deployment of military escorts for commercial vessels in the region. That, in turn, could augment the frictions with the Iranian naval presence and provoke a further escalation, to the point of limited hostilities between Iran and the United States.

The most dangerous situation the Islamic Revolution has ever known

Meanwhile, the IRGC’s new commander, Hossein Salami, said on May 15, 2019: “Today, our enemies, by applying the maximum pressure strategy and using all their capacities, are trying to break the steadfastness of the Iranian nation, but they will fail.” He added that Iran’s enemies are unaware that the resilience, determination and honor of the nation form its protective shield.

Salami, who is known for his scathing remarks about the United States and Israel, called the current situation the most dangerous and sensitive one that the Iranian Islamic Revolution has ever known and said Iran was at the brink of an all-out confrontation with the enemy. He claimed, however, that Iran’s enemies had exhausted all their resources and, despite their steadfast demeanor, were falling apart internally and on the way to being vanquished by Iran.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami likewise declared: “Iran stands at the peak of defense-military preparedness to counter any threat or act of aggression,” and that it would defeat the U.S.-Israeli alliance. Hatami emphasized the fact that last year, despite the difficult conditions it is facing, Iran did not neglect military development, buttressing its power of deterrence.

“Negotiations Are like a Poison”

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met with senior officials and again rejected any possibility of negotiating with the United States. “As long as the United States is what it is now,” he said, “negotiating is but poison, and with this current administration that poison is twice [as lethal].”

In a wide-ranging survey of the difficult history of Iran’s relations with the “Great Satan,” he asserted that “the U.S. leaders serve the interests of the Zionist regime more than any other country.” Khamenei also elaborated on the United States’ domestic difficulties, which, he said, were leading it to externalize its problems and look for enemies.

Fars News cartoon implies that the “war-mongering” Zionist regime is behind the attack in Fujairah. Source: Fars News.

“Negotiations,” Khamenei said, “entail exchanges, give and take, but all that interests the United States is power. They say, come, let’s discuss your defensive capabilities and the reasons that you are developing missiles of certain [long] ranges; reduce the range of the missiles so that if we hit you, you won’t be able to hit back. Come, let’s discuss your strategic influence in the region, which means ‘Give it up.’”

Khamenei added, “Negotiations are like a poison as long as the United States behaves as it behaves, and given the current [Trump] administration—which is not decent and does not obey any law—the poison is especially strong, and as a result no noble and wise Iranian will negotiate over his advantages … Not one of our clever people is looking for negotiations.”

Khamenei repeated his assessment that a war between Iran and the United States is unlikely.

“This is not a matter of a military confrontation between the two countries since war is not in the offing … We do not want a war, and neither does the United States, which knows it does not stand to gain anything from a war. This is a struggle of aspirations and values, and Iranian willpower is strong because Iran puts its trust in Allah. The boastful and bullying enemy has no real strength.”

Referring to Washington’s calls for Iran to change its policy, Khamenei said that Iran’s behavior has indeed changed, and “the Iranian people now hate the United States more than ever, and it can no longer interfere in their affairs.”

The Supreme Leader’s forthright statements came in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to negotiate with Iran and his provision to the Swiss of a phone number the Iranians can use to call him directly. Trump’s proposal earned him derisive cartoons in most of the Iranian media. In this Fars cartoon, Trump holds a “telephone carrier” and says, “I want the Iranians to call me, but John Kerry is telling them not to call.”

Source: Fars News.