Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says StudyA study by a group of prominent seismologists suggests that a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed. Among other things, they say that the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plants, 24 miles north of the city, sit astride the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones. The paper appears in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. All are based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which runs the network of seismometers that monitors most of the northeastern United States.Lead author Lynn R. Sykes said the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure. “The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur,” he said. “It’s an extremely populated area with very large assets.” Sykes, who has studied the region for four decades, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.The authors compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City. Coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records. The researchers say magnitude 5 quakes—strong enough to cause damage–occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. There was little settlement around to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the last, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island. Based on this, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years. “Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” said Armbruster. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed.”Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed further potential, including distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come. The Lamont network, now led by coauthor Won-Young Kim, has located hundreds of small events, including a magnitude 3 every few years, which can be felt by people at the surface, but is unlikely to cause damage. These small quakes tend to cluster along a series of small, old faults in harder rocks across the region. Many of the faults were discovered decades ago when subways, water tunnels and other excavations intersected them, but conventional wisdom said they were inactive remnants of continental collisions and rifting hundreds of millions of years ago. The results clearly show that they are active, and quite capable of generating damaging quakes, said Sykes.One major previously known feature, the Ramapo Seismic Zone, runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a mile or two northwest of Indian Point. The researchers found that this system is not so much a single fracture as a braid of smaller ones, where quakes emanate from a set of still ill-defined faults. East and south of the Ramapo zone—and possibly more significant in terms of hazard–is a set of nearly parallel northwest-southeast faults. These include Manhattan’s 125th Street fault, which seems to have generated two small 1981 quakes, and could have been the source of the big 1737 quake; the Dyckman Street fault, which carried a magnitude 2 in 1989; the Mosholu Parkway fault; and the Dobbs Ferry fault in suburban Westchester, which generated the largest recent shock, a surprising magnitude 4.1, in 1985. Fortunately, it did no damage. Given the pattern, Sykes says the big 1884 quake may have hit on a yet-undetected member of this parallel family further south.The researchers say that frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones, and so can be used to project a rough time scale for damaging events. Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the crust, the researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even 7—respectively 10 and 100 times bigger than magnitude 5–are quite possible on the active faults they describe. They calculate that magnitude 6 quakes take place in the area about every 670 years, and sevens, every 3,400 years. The corresponding probabilities of occurrence in any 50-year period would be 7% and 1.5%. After less specific hints of these possibilities appeared in previous research, a 2003 analysis by The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation put the cost of quakes this size in the metro New York area at $39 billion to $197 billion. A separate 2001 analysis for northern New Jersey’s Bergen County estimates that a magnitude 7 would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone. The researchers point out that no one knows when the last such events occurred, and say no one can predict when they next might come.“We need to step backward from the simple old model, where you worry about one large, obvious fault, like they do in California,” said coauthor Leonardo Seeber. “The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought. We need to take a very close look.” Seeber says that because the faults are mostly invisible at the surface and move infrequently, a big quake could easily hit one not yet identified. “The probability is not zero, and the damage could be great,” he said. “It could be like something out of a Greek myth.”The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary. It is parallel to the other faults beginning at 125th Street, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. Like the others, they say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake. Furthermore, a mile or so on, it intersects the Ramapo seismic zone.Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson takes a sudden unexplained bend just ot the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend. The seismic evidence confirms it, he said. “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident,” says the paper. “This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”The findings comes at a time when Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years—a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Last fall the attorney general, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing: “New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility.” The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision this July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options.The characteristics of New York’s geology and human footprint may increase the problem. Unlike in California, many New York quakes occur near the surface—in the upper mile or so—and they occur not in the broken-up, more malleable formations common where quakes are frequent, but rather in the extremely hard, rigid rocks underlying Manhattan and much of the lower Hudson Valley. Such rocks can build large stresses, then suddenly and efficiently transmit energy over long distances. “It’s like putting a hard rock in a vise,” said Seeber. “Nothing happens for a while. Then it goes with a bang.” Earthquake-resistant building codes were not introduced to New York City until 1995, and are not in effect at all in many other communities. Sinuous skyscrapers and bridges might get by with minimal damage, said Sykes, but many older, unreinforced three- to six-story brick buildings could crumble.Art Lerner-Lam, associate director of Lamont for seismology, geology and tectonophysics, pointed out that the region’s major highways including the New York State Thruway, commuter and long-distance rail lines, and the main gas, oil and power transmission lines all cross the parallel active faults, making them particularly vulnerable to being cut. Lerner-Lam, who was not involved in the research, said that the identification of the seismic line near Indian Point “is a major substantiation of a feature that bears on the long-term earthquake risk of the northeastern United States.” He called for policymakers to develop more information on the region’s vulnerability, to take a closer look at land use and development, and to make investments to strengthen critical infrastructure.“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Lerner-Lam. “It gives us the best possible evidence that we have an earthquake hazard here that should be a factor in any planning decision. It crystallizes the argument that this hazard is not random. There is a structure to the location and timing of the earthquakes. This enables us to contemplate risk in an entirely different way. And since we are able to do that, we should be required to do that.”New York Earthquake Briefs and Quotes:Existing U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard maps show New York City as facing more hazard than many other eastern U.S. areas. Three areas are somewhat more active—northernmost New York State, New Hampshire and South Carolina—but they have much lower populations and fewer structures. The wider forces at work include pressure exerted from continuing expansion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge thousands of miles to the east; slow westward migration of the North American continent; and the area’s intricate labyrinth of old faults, sutures and zones of weakness caused by past collisions and rifting.Due to New York’s past history, population density and fragile, interdependent infrastructure, a 2001 analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranks it the 11th most at-risk U.S. city for earthquake damage. Among those ahead: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Behind: Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Anchorage.New York’s first seismic station was set up at Fordham University in the 1920s. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y., has operated stations since 1949, and now coordinates a network of about 40.Dozens of small quakes have been felt in the New York area. A Jan. 17, 2001 magnitude 2.4, centered in the Upper East Side—the first ever detected in Manhattan itself–may have originated on the 125th Street fault. Some people thought it was an explosion, but no one was harmed.The most recent felt quake, a magnitude 2.1 on July 28, 2008, was centered near Milford, N.J. Houses shook and a woman at St. Edward’s Church said she felt the building rise up under her feet—but no damage was done.Questions about the seismic safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which lies amid a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people, were raised in previous scientific papers in 1978 and 1985.Because the hard rocks under much of New York can build up a lot strain before breaking, researchers believe that modest faults as short as 1 to 10 kilometers can cause magnitude 5 or 6 quakes.In general, magnitude 3 quakes occur about 10 times more often than magnitude fours; 100 times more than magnitude fives; and so on. This principle is called the Gutenberg-Richter relationship.
BAGHDAD, July 24 (Xinhua) — Iraqi Communist Party announced on Saturday its withdrawal from the competition in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct. 10.
“The atmosphere is not suitable for holding the elections, and there are many confusions in the political process,” Raed Fahmi, secretary of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party, said in a press conference in the northern city of Kirkuk.
Fahmi noted that financial irregularities and uncontrolled weapons still affect the elections, saying the political parties are “not serious” in achieving the demands of popular protests that broke out in October 2019, and “the upcoming elections are nothing but a change of faces.”
The party won two seats in the 2018 parliamentary elections on a joint list within the Sairoon Coalition, which became the largest group in the Iraqi parliament, with the support of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Over a week ago, al-Sadr announced his withdrawal from the parliamentary elections due to “rampant corruption and unfair competition” among political parties.
Iraq is scheduled to hold early elections on Oct. 10, 2021, in response to the anti-government protests against corruption and lack of public services.
The previous parliamentary elections in Iraq were held on May 12, 2018, and the next elections were originally scheduled to take place in 2022. Enditem
Biden to press Iraqi leader to help stop Iran’s drone strikes on U.S. troops
By Jeff Mordock
President Biden is expected to use his meeting Monday with the Iraqi prime minister to press him to take a stronger role in curtailing Iranian-backed drone attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq in Syria.
But Mr. Biden may not have enough leverage to overcome Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s fears of retaliation from Iran, analysts say.
“Iraq is not going to take a hard line against things that are not in the interest of Iraq,” said Robert Rabil, a professor at Florida Atlantic University, who has written books on the region.
“The prime minister is pro-U.S., but he is also a nationalist and pro-Iraq. He knows he can’t make an enemy out of Iran.”
Since President Biden took office in January, at least eight drone attacks and 17 rocket attacks have targeted U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. An attack earlier this month on an Iraqi airbase hosting U.S. forces wounded two American service members.
The U.S. blamed the attacks on Iranian-backed militias operating inside Iraq and Syria. The militias make up a large part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of roughly 40 mostly Shia Muslim paramilitary groups.
In response to the attacks, Mr. Biden has twice ordered airstrikes against the militia groups operating inside Syria, including a strike near the Iraqi border.
The president is going to need to sell Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi on taking a harder and more public line against the drone attacks if he expects to make progress in the region, analysts say.
So far, Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been reluctant to take a stronger approach, fearing not only retaliation but blowback in his own country, Mr. Rabil said.
“To go against Iran, he will not do,” Mr. Rabil said of the prime minister. “Iraq does not have a political party so he needs to work in consensus. He wants to improve Iraq but has been faced with a lot of challenges. Using Iraq to settle the score between the U.S. and Iran won’t help.”
Complicating matters is the tense relationship between Iraq and the U.S. that has lingered since the Trump administration.
Former President Trump last year ordered a drone strike that killed Iran military leader Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The strike took place at the Baghdad International Airport.
Mr. Biden has sought a fresh start in U.S.-Iraqi relations and Mr. Mustafa al-Kadhimi appears to be on board. The visit to the White House is a sign of warming relationships.
Even if the prime minister won’t use harsher rhetoric against the drone strikes, there are still things he can do to assist the U.S.
First, he can share information with the U.S. about what Iraqi intelligence is gathering on the ground about the militias and drone strokes.
Mr. al Kadhimi can also work in the region to assist Mr. Biden in overcoming obstacles to reviving the Obama-era nuclear accord with Iran. There are signs that Iran is looking to curb the attacks on the U.S. military to reengage on a nuclear deal.
Mr. Rabil said the drone strikes appear to be structured to send a message to the United States but cause enough chaos to scuttle negotiations. For example, while the attacks have wounded service members, the U.S. has not sustained any casualties.
“If you look at the attacks, they are not aimed in a way to demand a strong retaliation,” he said. “They want to be able to say that we handled the United States on our terms, but not provoke a strong response.”
China and Russia are developing “a suite of capabilities” to threaten American assets in space, according to a top U.S. general who acknowledged the pressure to keep ahead of these adversaries in orbit.
“One of the main reasons why we established the Space Force was to go fast and to stay ahead of a growing threat,” Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, told reporters Thursday.
American strategists are trying “to deter conflict from beginning or extending into space,” Raymond emphasized, but China’s emergence as an aggressive space power was heralded in 2007 by its use of a land-based rocket to destroy one of its own weather satellites. Russia likewise has tested anti-satellite weapons, while arms control talks have failed to gain traction as the major powers can’t agree even on the definition of a weapon in space, stoking fears of a full-blown arms race in space.
“The best way we know how to deter conflict from [the] beginning or extending into space is to do so from a position of strength,” Raymond replied when asked if an arms race is already underway. “We’re prepared to protect and defend our capabilities today. We will remain prepared to protect our capabilities into the future.”
China and Russia have proposed arms control treaties touted as a means to avoid the militarization of space, but U.S. officials regard those as bad-faith proposals crafted by “the two countries that … have turned space into a warfighting domain,” as a senior U.S. diplomat said last month.
“The rapid evolution of such threats requires urgent and pragmatic steps if we are to maintain the safety, security, and stability of the outer space environment,” Ambassador Robert Wood told the Conference on Disarmament.
Raymond continued in that vein on Thursday. “We have seen what China has done with, and Russia, has done in developing a suite of capabilities designed to deny our access to space,” the general said. “Everything from reversible jamming of communications satellites and GPS satellites, to directed energy weapons, to satellites in orbit that are designed to destroy U.S. satellites in orbit, to missiles that are being launched from the ground to destroy satellites like China demonstrated — Russia has the same type of program — and to cyberthreats.”
The Space Force, launched in December 2019, has assembled a force of 6,400 personnel, known as “Guardians,” while trying to organize Pentagon efforts to develop and acquire new technologies to maintain an advantage in space.
“There is still significant work to do, but we’ve got the pieces planned out and in place already making a difference,” Raymond said. “And I will say that we are focused and committed to moving fast and developing the capabilities and the tactical timelines that we need to stay ahead of this growing threat and remain the best in the world.”
Those initiatives don’t obviate the need for allied cooperation, in Raymond’s telling, as the general echoed President Joe Biden’s emphasis on partnering with other democracies to counter threats from China.
“I look at the challenges that we face, again, with a very congested, very competitive, and very contested domain, I think there’s even more opportunities,” he said. “And the opportunities stem from a commercial industry that’s thriving, that’s innovative, with technology that’s developing rapidly, and with international partnerships that allow us to protect and defend this domain and to establish safe and professional ways to operate in this domain, and primarily to deter conflict and to make sure that the domain is safe for all so economies can flourish, information can flow, and our nation’s security remains intact.”
The administration is being called on to “make bold decisions to lead us towards a future where nuclear weapons no longer threaten all humanity.”
July 22, 2021
A group of 21 Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday urged President Joe Biden to “reject a 21st century arms race” with key actions including making reductions in the nation’s nuclear arsenal and confirming a no-first-use policy.
The call came in a letter (pdf) led by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.), the co-chairs of the recently formed Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group.
The letter, first reported by The Hill, came as the Biden administration drafts it nuclear weapons doctrine, or Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which is expected to take several months.
“We respectfully ask that you directly guide the NPR process to reduce the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, forego development of new nuclear weapons, and develop a saner declaratory policy on nuclear weapons use.”
Referencing Biden’s history as a U.S. senator and vice president when he was “a party to every major nuclear weapons debate of the past five decades,” the lawmakers wrote that from “bolstering the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, to building European support for the Intermediate-Nuclear Forces Treaty, to securing votes for ratification of the New START Treaty, you have consistently been on the right side of history.”
They framed the NPR as “a watershed moment” in which Biden “can reject a 21st century arms race and make bold decisions to lead us towards a future where nuclear weapons no longer threaten all humanity.”
Six recommendations are detailed for inclusion in Biden’s NPR, the first of which references his June joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin affirming that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” As such, the NPR should adjust “declaratory policy to assign a reduced role for U.S. nuclear weapons.”
“We hope that the NPR operationalizes your previously stated view that the United States will not need to fire the first shot in a nuclear conflict,” the lawmakers wrote, “and that it configures its nuclear forces away from that warfighting posture accordingly.”
Biden should also direct the Pentagon “to include in its proposed target list a breakdown of the damage expectancy, civilian casualties, and climatic and humanitarian consequences stemming from nuclear weapons use,” given that even geographically limited nuclear conflict “would be felt by all the planet’s inhabitants.”
The NPR should also assess the quantity and “types of new weapons needed to deter nuclear attack,” taking into consideration previous recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to cancel certain nuclear weapons modernization programs.
Other recommendations include an outside review of the proposed Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) that would cost taxpayers an estimated $264 billion through its life cycle; nixing the two new types of lower yield nuclear weapons called for in 2018 in then-President Donald Trump’s NPR; and committing to “pursuing robust diplomacy with Russia and China on arms control” including through a successor agreement to the New START treaty.
“We respectfully ask that you directly guide the NPR process to reduce the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, forego development of new nuclear weapons, and develop a saner declaratory policy on nuclear weapons use,” the Democrats wrote.
Other signatories to the letter are Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), IIhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Ami Bera (D-Calif.).
It’s unclear at this time if the forthcoming NPR will lay out any fundamental changes to U.S. nuclear weapons doctrine that anti-nuclear advocates say are sorely needed.
Speaking earlier this month to Politico, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said that the “NPR will be a real test as to whether the Biden administration walks its talk on reducing the role, the number, and the cost of nuclear weapons.”
“Biden also has a responsibility to fundamentally reconsider outdated concepts of how much damage—and how many nuclear weapons—are necessary to deter nuclear threats to the United States and our allies,” Kimball said. “Just a few hundred nuclear weapons could destroy Russia and China, kill hundreds of millions of people, and produce an acute planetary climate catastrophe.”
Blast in the Gaza City’s Al-Zawiya marketplace collapses large part of a house, damages dozens of nearby buildings and shops
One person was killed and 10 were injured Thursday when an explosion tore through a house in a popular marketplace in Gaza City, the Hamas-run interior ministry said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.
The blast in the Al-Zawiya area collapsed large parts of the house and damaged dozens of buildings and shops nearby, according to the statement.
Police explosives and engineering teams continue to investigate the causes of the explosion. Civil defense teams and the police were able to control the resulting fire.
The blast shook the neighborhood on the third day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Israeli army signaled it wasn’t involved, calling the explosion an “internal matter” in Gaza.
Gaza City already was struggling with heavy damage sustained during an 11-day conflict in May between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
The World Bank earlier this month said rebuilding Gaza would cost $485 million, including up to $380 million to repair the physical damage alone.
Israeli officials have said they will condition allowing the reconstruction of Gaza on progress and easing the heightened restrictions on reaching a prisoner exchange with Hamas that secures the return of two Israeli civilians and two soldiers’ bodies held by the terror group.
Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza in response to rocket fire killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. Israel says over 200 of those killed were terror operatives. It says some of the civilian fatalities were caused by rocket fire that fell short and landed in the Strip.
Rocket and other projectile fire from Gaza killed 13 in Israel, including a child and a teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian national and two Thai workers. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An explosion tore through a house in a popular market in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing one person and wounding 10, the Palestinian territory’s interior ministry said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.
The blast in the Al-Zawiya area collapsed large parts of the house and damaged dozens of buildings and shops nearby, according to the statement. Explosives engineering teams were investigating; civil defense teams and the police were able to control the ensuing fire.
The blast shook the neighborhood on the third day of Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday.
The Israeli army signaled it wasn’t involved, calling the explosion an “internal” matter in Gaza.
Gaza City is already struggling with heavy damage sustained from an 11-day war in May between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. At least 254 people were killed in Gaza during the conflict, including 67 children and 39 women, according to the Gaza health ministry. Hamas has acknowledged the deaths of 80 militants. Twelve civilians, including two children, were killed in Israel, along with one soldier.
The World Bank earlier this month said rebuilding Gaza would cost $485 million, including up to $380 million to repair the physical damage alone.