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.
Trump’s return to the Oval Office prompted a flurry of precautions by his staff in an office building where the president and at least a dozen employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.
Doctors had wanted Trump to stay in the White House residence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say patients are supposed to quarantine for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms – in Trump’s case, last Thursday.
Since Trump announced last week he was diagnosed with COVID-19, a growing list of White House officials have also tested positive for the virus, most recently senior aide Stephen Miller, who revealed his diagnosis Tuesday.
Trump has sought to downplay the seriousness of the virus in an election year and has been eager to project an image of beating his own case of the disease and returning to normal. After returning from a three-night hospital stay for treatment Monday, he told Americans they shouldn’t fear the virus.
But White House officials have acknowledged imposing tougher protocols in the wake of the president’s case. Many staff have been working from home and images of workers in full hazmat suits disinfecting parts of the White House have captured the public’s attention.
Safety precautions were taken, officials said. Staff access to the president was limited, and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows – wearing a mask and other personal protective equipment – was in the Oval Office with the president the whole time; aide Dan Scavino, also in PPE, was in and out of the office.
Aides refused to say whether Trump wore a mask.
Trump came into the Oval Office from the outside colonnade, officials said, so White House staff members “were not exposed,” an official said.
While in the Oval Office, Trump tweeted that he had been briefed on the threat of Hurricane Delta, and spoken with the governors of Louisiana and Texas.
Many of Trump’s employees do not consider the West Wing a safe place. The building has been near-deserted this week because aides are working from home, afraid to come to the office for fear of catching the virus that has infected Trump and more than a dozen colleagues over the past week.
Some members of the White House press corps are not working in the building, instead setting up chairs on the driveway outside the West Wing.
A table stacked with PPE just outside the West Wing
A Marine guard posted himself outside the door to the West Wing shortly after 3 p.m. ET; the Marine’s presence has long been the traditional signal that the president, any president, is in the Oval Office.
Two administration officials confirmed that Trump worked out of the Oval Office. They said Trump continues to speak with aides and congressional leaders, and to do the job as needed.
The president is also talking about the possibility of some kind of national address, or perhaps an another video.
“He wants to speak to the American people and he will do so soon,” said White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern. “I don’t have an exact time or a definite way he’ll do that.”
Trump spent the morning and afternoon out of the public eye, though he was very active on Twitter – more than 40 tweets and re-tweets before 10 a.m., many of them attacking election opponent Joe Biden and other Democrats.
In his daily memo on the president’s condition, presidential physician Conley quoted Trump offering his own prognosis.
“The President this morning says ‘I feel great!” Conley wrote in a brief memo released by the White House. “His physical exam and vital signs, including oxygen saturation and respiratory rate, all remain stable and in normal range.”
More: Trump feels ‘great’ with COVID-19; Pence and Harris face off tonight: Live updates
More: Donald Trump’s COVID-19 treatment is similar to the average American hospitalized with coronavirus. Only faster.
Conley also reported that Trump – who has not been seen in public since he returned to the White House on Monday night – has been fever-free for more than four days and symptom-free for more than 24 hours.
The president also “has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization,” the doctor said.
Conley also reported that Trump’s blood work showed “detectable levels” of antibodies.
In this Oct. 5 file photo, President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony at the White House.
Alex Brandon, AP
At a Glance
Hurricane Delta is now over the Gulf of Mexico, and expected to regain some strength.
Delta is then expected to landfall along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast Friday.
Storm surge, destructive winds and flooding rain are all expected.
This could include areas ravaged by Hurricane Laura in late August.
Hurricane Delta is now over the Gulf of Mexico off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and has prompted watches along the U.S. Gulf Coast where a landfall is expected Friday.
A hurricane watch is in effect from High Island, Texas, to Grand Isle, Louisiana, and extends inland to include Lake Charles and Lafayette, Louisiana, as well as Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas. This watch is usually issued 48 hours in advance of the onset of tropical storm conditions which make preparations difficult or dangerous.
Watches and Warnings
(A watch is issued when tropical storm or hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. A warning is issued when those conditions are expected within 36 hours.)
A storm surge watch is also in effect from High Island, Texas, to the Alabama-Florida border, including Calcasieu Lake, Vermilion Bay, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, Lake Borgne and Mobile Bay. This watch means a dangerous, life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland is possible within 48 hours.
Tropical storm watches have been posted from San Luis Pass to west of High Island, Texas, including Galveston Bay and eastern parts of the Houston metro area. This watch also extends east of Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, including Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas. This means tropical storm are possible in these areas within 48 hours.
Residents near the immediate coast and adjacent bays should have their hurricane plans ready to implement and follow any evacuation orders from local emergency managers.
(NEWS: Where Delta Evacuations Have Been Issued)
The center of Hurricane Delta is over the southern Gulf of Mexico. Microwave satellite imagery Wednesday afternoon revealed Delta’s core circulation, but the strongest thunderstorms in outer bands away from the center.
A U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter mission found Delta’s winds had diminished after its passing over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
The maximum sustained winds in Delta topped out at 145 mph Tuesday, but are down to 85 mph as of Wednesday 4 p.m. CDT. The storm is moving to the northwest at 15 to 20 mph.
Conditions have improved over both Cancún and Cozumel as the strongest thunderstorms in Delta’s outer bands shifted into the northwest Yucatan Peninsula.
(NEWS: Power Out, Trees Downed as Delta Strikes Yucatan)
Forecast Timing, Intensity
With a bubble of somewhat warmer Gulf of Mexico water and lower wind shear in its path, Delta is expected to regain strength through Thursday night.
Delta will also turn northward toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.
As it draws nearer to the Gulf Coast, Delta’s wind intensity could diminish somewhat due to increasingly unfavorable upper-level winds and cooler Gulf water.
Despite this weakening on approach, Delta is still forecast to be a formidably strong hurricane at landfall, most likely along the Louisiana or upper Texas coast Friday.
(MORE: Why Delta’s Weakening Before Landfall Won’t Matter Much)
Delta will then move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley, then into the Ohio Valley this weekend.
(The red-shaded area denotes the potential path of the center of the tropical cyclone. It’s important to note that impacts (particularly heavy rain, high surf, coastal flooding, winds) with any tropical cyclone usually spread beyond its forecast path.)
Storm Surge, Waves
Swells generated by Delta should begin to arrive along the Gulf Coast, from South Texas to the Florida Panhandle and even western Florida Thursday.
These swells are likely to generate dangerous rip currents at beaches and could lead to some coastal flooding at high tide in some low-lying areas Thursday, particularly in southern Louisiana.
Delta’s storm surge will be dangerous and life-threatening regardless of any weakening in its winds up until landfall.
The highest storm surge is expected along parts of south-central Louisiana, not just near the immediate Gulf Coast, but also in bays, inlets and to some degree inland along rivers and bayous. Inundation could reach 7 to 11 feet above ground in these areas.
A dangerous storm surge is also expected in areas that were ravaged by Hurricane Laura in late August. Any potential shift westward in the forecast track could bring higher storm surge to these areas.
At least some storm surge flooding is also expected in southeast Louisiana, including along Lake Pontchartrain, and along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts, including areas affected by Hurricane Sally last month.
Storm Surge Forecast
(From the National Hurricane Center, these are peak inundations above ground level if the storm surge from Delta arrives at high tide. Subtle changes in the track forecast may lead to changes in this surge forecast.)
Tropical storm-force winds could arrive along the northern Gulf Coast as soon as Thursday night. Hurricane conditions could arrive along the coast in the hurricane watch areas by Friday.
The strongest winds with Delta will be near the Louisiana coast at landfall as the eyewall moves ashore. This is where structural damage, power outages and downed trees will be most widespread.
As with most hurricanes, strong winds capable of downing trees and power outages will also extend inland as Delta gains some forward speed near and after landfall, into much of Louisiana, eastern Texas, Mississippi, and southern Arkansas late Friday into Saturday.
Tropical-storm-force Wind Arrival Times
(This is when winds of 40 mph may arrive and when it is too late to finish preparations. )
Rainfall and Tornado Threats
A faster forward speed than what we saw with Hurricane Sally last month will lessen Delta’s extreme rainfall potential, though heavy rainfall is still expected, particularly along and to the east of its path.
This heavy rainfall combined with storm surge could worsen and prolong flooding for a time along the northern Gulf Coast.
According to the National Hurricane Center, 4 to 8 inches, with isolated 12-inch amounts are expected with Delta near the northern Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley Friday into Saturday, leading to flash flooding and at least some minor river flooding.
Some locally heavy rainfall will also spread into the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic states this weekend.
(This should be interpreted as a broad outlook of where the heaviest rain may fall.)
As with most landfalling hurricanes and tropical storms, there’s also a threat of isolated tornadoes Friday into Saturday in the lower Mississippi Valley and the Deep South.
Tropical Depression Twenty-Six formed late Sunday evening to the south of Jamaica and then strengthened into Tropical Storm Delta on Monday morning, the 25th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
(MORE: Countdown to a Record Season)
Reconnaissance aircraft measured a drop in central pressure of 18 millibars from Monday’s 2 p.m. EDT National Hurricane Center pressure estimate to when it was found to have become a hurricane about six hours later.
Winds in Delta increased by 85 mph in the 24 hours ending 11:20 a.m. EDT Tuesday. That was more than double the criteria for the rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone, which is a wind speed increase of at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less.
Delta’s rapid intensification was due to an environment of the highest ocean heat content anywhere in the tropical Atlantic basin, low wind shear and sufficiently moist air, in a region notorious for rapid intensification in October, according to Sam Lillo, a NOAA scientist based in Boulder, Colorado.
Delta’s tiny size also helped it intensify so rapidly.
(MORE: Delta Was the Fastest on Record to Intensify From Tropical Depression to Category 4)
Delta made landfall Wednesday morning around 5:30 a.m. CDT near Puerto Morelos, Mexico, in the Yucatan Peninsula, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, making it a Category 2 hurricane.
A wind gust to 75 mph was measured at Puerto Morelos, 64 mph in Cozumel and 106 mph on an elevated WeatherFlow observing site near Cancún.
Delta’s Landfall In Mexico
Delta’s weakening prior to its Yucatan landfall appeared to be due to land interaction, some modest wind shear impinging on the hurricane from the east, inhibiting its outflow aloft, and also perhaps some dry air working into the tiny circulation.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.
Leaving aside politics, I am concerned that your editorial, “As voting begins, our choice is Joe Biden,” (Oct. 1), incorrectly described the vitally important situation involving Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons.
You said that the Iran deal “had kept Iran’s nuclear program bottled up.” That statement has no basis in fact. In the negotiations toward that deal, our negotiators conceded away any meaningful way to verify Iran’s compliance. We surrendered the IAEA’s right to inspect all facilities. It may inspect only selected ones. Even the limited inspections are often subject to enough advance notice to Iran that its fanatical and ruthless leaders can easily cover up their nuclear efforts. Nothing is “bottled up.” Instead, the deal is like Swiss cheese.
While accepting on faith that Iran would keep its word, we gave it $100 billion, which it is using to fund terrorism and military proxies throughout the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq. Moreover, Iran will have plenty of arms available to purchase, as we conceded away the UN arms embargo against Iran, which will now expire imminently.
The Day has a right to its political preferences but has an obligation not to make unfounded factual statements.
Mark I. Fishman
President of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting)
The Zircon missile, The Associated Press reports, was launched from the White Sea off the coast of Russia and successfully hit its target farther north in the Barents Sea. With the successful launch, which Russian President Vladimir Putin described as a “big event” for Russia, it seems we’ve now entered the era of operational nuclear weapons that fly too quickly to block.
Last December, Russia announced that the Avangard, a hypersonic launch vehicle that can fly 27 times the speed of sound and evade anti-missile systems, was fully operational.
The brief Russian announcement didn’t mention the Avangard by name, but assuming it was used in the launch, it would seem that there’s now tangible evidence that the world’s first of a new class of weapons working as described.
For now, details remain scarce. But Putin said in 2019 that the Zircon could travel 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) at nine times the speed of sound, the AP reports.
“Equipping our Armed Forces — the army and the navy — with the latest, truly unparalleled weapon systems will certainly ensure the defense capability of our country in the long term,” Putin said Wednesday.
Published on 05.10.2020
The Israeli army struck on Monday targets in the Gaza Strip, shortly after a rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled enclave landed in an open area in southern Israel.
Local authorities reported no casualties or damage. The Israeli army said only one rocket was fired, and an alert sounded in border communities.
The army said it targeted a Hamas position in southern Gaza, while Palestinian media reported blasts in the Rafah area.
This is the first incident of cross-border rocket fire since mid-September, when Palestinian factions fired 13 rockets from the Hamas-controlled enclave after tensions between Gaza and Israel increased amid a backdrop of the White House signing ceremony where Israel inked normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
• Two Gazans Detained After Breaching Israel Border Fence, Hurling Faulty Grenade
• Gaza Rockets Rain on Southern Israel Morning After D.C. Ceremony, IDF Strike Strip
• Palestinian Refugee Agency Warns of Instability Amid Financial Crisis
At the time, residents reported sounds of explosions and the IDF said which eight of the 13 rockets were successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The Israeli army responded and struck Hamas targets in northern and central Gaza, Palestinian reports said.
Amid increased tensions, on Thursday last week, two Palestinians were detained near the Gaza border after breaching the fence and entering Israeli territory north of the Strip, the Israeli military said.
According to an IDF statement, the two Palestinians threw a grenade, which failed to explode. They were also found to be carrying a knife, cutters, and a second faulty grenade.
Since there are no risk-free or cost-free policy options for Pakistan over Kashmir, an integrated, realistic and prudent Kashmir policy may allow us to fight the odds
As India aims to undermine Pakistan’s arguments and image through baseless allegations of state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir, Afghanistan and India, it is imperative that Pakistan’s Kashmir policy needs to be embedded within the national framework. With India pitching for a permanent seat in the UNSC along with its attempt to place Pakistan in the FATF blacklist, the situation is now or never for Pakistan.
India under Modi’s administration is determined to eliminate Kashmir’s political identity through its repressive policies, with genocide being the last resort. It will continue to foster its Kashmir policy because not doing so will be suicidal for the Indian government and will consequently assert massive pressure on Pakistan to accept LoC as international border. However, with India’s instigation and aggressive policy reaching its zenith, it is necessary for Pakistan to avoid a nuclear war with India at all costs — an end which will affect the lives of millions and millions of people in the subcontinent.
Since there are no risk-free or cost-free policy options for Pakistan over Kashmir, an integrated, realistic and prudent Kashmir policy may allow us to fight the odds. But most importantly, Pakistan needs to understand the provisions in its own constitution regarding Kashmir. In doing so, it can invite the Kashmiris to trust Pakistan’s fidelity to its own constitution obligation towards them.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2020.