By Meteorologist Dominic Ramunni Nationwide PUBLISHED 7:13 PM ET Aug. 11, 2020 PUBLISHED 7:13 PM EDT Aug. 11, 2020
People across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic were shaken, literally, on a Sunday morning as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck in North Carolina on August 9, 2020.
Centered in Sparta, NC, the tremor knocked groceries off shelves and left many wondering just when the next big one could strike.
Compared to the West Coast, there are far fewer fault lines in the East. This is why earthquakes in the East are relatively uncommon and weaker in magnitude.
That said, earthquakes still occur in the East.
According to Spectrum News Meteorologist Matthew East, “Earthquakes have occurred in every eastern U.S. state, and a majority of states have recorded damaging earthquakes. However, they are pretty rare. For instance, the Sparta earthquake Sunday was the strongest in North Carolina in over 100 years.”
For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.
In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.
The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.
These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.
This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.
Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.
Quakes in the East can also be more damaging to infrastructure than in the West. This is generally due to the older buildings found east. Architects in the early-to-mid 1900s simply were not accounting for earthquakes in their designs for cities along the East Coast.
When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.
There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.
Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.
The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.
The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.
While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.
Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.
The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.
CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to meet with the nation’s top defense companies this week in an effort to speed up the development of hypersonic weapons.
The meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, comes after the hypersonic weapons tests from China and Russia took U.S. national security officials by surprise in recent months.
The Pentagon’s push for more urgency into its hypersonic weapons program and increasing its resources also comes after the U.S. military suffered two missile test failures last year. Despite that, retired Marine intelligence officer Hal Kempfer says he’s pretty confident the U.S. can catch up to Russia and China’s hypersonic technology.
Kempfer said since the United States is not as far as advanced in hypersonic programs, the threat to the U.S. missile defense systems is imminent.
“They could literally skirt around at extremely high speed … our missile defenses and then pop into our country or to whatever target they hit. And we simply just don’t have what we need to intercept them.”
The missiles can travel at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Their maneuverability also makes them more difficult to detect. Kempfer said this is why building vast technology in terms of targeting and avionics is important.
“The other thing we have to consider is targeting. And that’s so difficult with nuclear weapons. When you talk about ballistic missiles, it’s not just a range of the missile. It’s the ability of the warhead to come through the atmosphere and actually hit the target. It’s very common … for the missile itself to get there. And then if it’s not a very advanced system, the warhead can literally skip on the atmosphere and misses the target by quite a bit of distance, hundreds of miles sometimes.”
As to how long it will take for the U.S. to develop and deploy these weapons systems, Kempfer said he believes the timeline will be pushed aggressively.
The U.S. has so far focused more on the development of conventional warheads. Russia and China have focused on hypersonic weapons with the capabilities of carrying nuclear warheads.
North Korea has also said it will bolster its defenses against the United States. The country carried out yet another missile test Sunday, making it one of the busiest months for missile tests in the country’s history.
“We should be concerned,” Kempfer said. “I think the real place to be concerned is the West Pacific. I know in Guam … there’s been a lot of discussion about significantly increasing our anti-missile defense system within Guam and some of our other West Pacific bases and installations.”
The top defense companies that have been invited to attend the meeting include Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr delivering a speech to his supporters following Friday prayers, in September 2018. AFP
At his home in the southern city of Najaf, Mr Al Sadr hosted the president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani, Sunni Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi and tycoon Khamis Al Khanjar.
We are still with forming a majority government and we welcome the dialogue with the national opposition
Moqtada Al Sadr
They discussed a plan by Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, to break the deadlock.
Mr Barzani said his aim was “solving the problems and creating a suitable and good environment for the political process in Iraq.”
A Kurdish official told The National that a day earlier, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Brig Gen Esmail Qaani had met officials in Erbil.
For weeks, Iran has orchestrated diplomatic efforts in Baghdad, Najaf and Erbil to bring Shiites together and secure Tehran’s allies a seat in the government.
In reference to Iran’s efforts, Mr Al Halbousi tweeted before the meeting in Najaf: “That time of foreign intervention in forming Iraqi government is gone.”
Despite being a clear winner, Mr Al Sadr fell short of gaining the majority — 165 seats in the 329-seat parliament — needed to form a government and will have to create a bigger coalition with other players.
Former Shiite prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, who heads the State of Law bloc, won 33 seats, while the Iran-backed Fatah Alliance won 17.
Discussions with the Iran-allied Co-ordination Framework — which is formed from the State of Law, Fatah and other Shiite groups — have not lead to a deal.
Mr Al Maliki is one of the main obstacles to any deal, as Mr Al Sadr wishes to exclude him. The pair’s enmity dates back to 2008, when Mr Al Maliki launched a military operation against the Mahdi Army.
The Co-ordination Framework has so far resisted Mr Al Sadr’s attempts to convince some its members to defect, threatening instead to disrupt government formation as an opposition bloc or boycott the political process.
After Monday’s meeting, Mr Al Sadr tweeted that “we are still with forming a majority government and we welcome the dialogue with the national opposition”.
The rifts between Shiite rivals deepened during the first parliamentary session on January 9 when Mr Al Sadr joined forces with Sunni and Kurdish parties to successfully elect the Parliament Speaker and his deputies.
The move angered the pro-Iran camp, which includes influential Shiite militias that boycotted the session and later issued threats against Sunnis and Kurds.
The United States needs a bipartisan strategy to defend U.S. adversaries’ increasing missile capabilities.by Fred Fleitz
North Korea has launched missiles seven times in January 2022, including a suspected intermediate-range missile for the first time since 2017 on January 30 and a supposed hypersonic missile into the Sea of Japan on January 10. The latter alarmed the Federal Aviation Administration so much that it temporarily halted departures from some West Coast airports that evening.SPONSORED CONTENTRecommended by
These recent North Korean missile launches followed Iran’s space launch to lift a satellite into orbit on December 30, 2021—which most experts believed to be a developmental intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.
In 2021, hypersonic missiles were the highest-profile missile threat because three U.S. adversaries—Russia, China, and North Korea—reportedly conducted successful tests. These weapons are a significant threat since they are maneuverable and travel to their targets at very high speeds and low altitudes, making them almost impossible to track and thus capable of evading missile defenses. These tests also are alarming since there has been a string of failed U.S. hypersonic missile tests in recent years.
Russia tested several hypersonic cruise missiles launched from naval vessels in 2021. Further, China and North Korea reportedly tested hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) mounted on ballistic missiles. The HGV China launched in November reportedly “went around the world” before landing close to its target. Russia is also developing an HGV that it last launched in 2018.
Although Iran is not believed to be pursuing hypersonic missiles, a September 2021 Arab Weekly article commented that Iran’s neighbors are concerned that it could acquire this technology thanks to renewed Iranian-North Korean cooperation on missile programs.
North Korea conducted its first ballistic missile launch from a submerged submarine in October. It also conducted several launches in 2021 of an advanced short-range ballistic missile, the KN-23, which is believed to be highly accurate and maneuverable. In September, North Korea reportedly tested a long-range cruise missile capable of hitting Japan. Although Pyongyang did not display new medium- or long-range missiles in military parades last year, it is almost certainly developing them.
Iran has the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East, and in 2021, it continued advancing the desire to maintain this capability. Missile activity in that year included two space launches; tests of missiles of various ranges; and tests of cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles, and drones. Iran continued to provide missiles, rockets, and drones last year to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, the Syrian army, and Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon, which has fighters in Syria.
China reportedly has the world’s most diverse missile program and is engaged in improving and expanding its ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones in 2021. In addition to hypersonic missiles, China is believed to be developing other advanced missile technologies such as maneuverable anti-ship ballistic missiles and multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs). Further, public satellite images from July 2021 showed a second Chinese nuclear silo field. This imagery indicates that Beijing is greatly expanding its ICBM arsenal and is almost certainly related to a December 2021 Pentagon report that assessed China’s plan to increase the number of its nuclear warheads from the low 200s to 700 in 2027 and 1,000 by 2030.
Russia and the United States extended the New START Treaty for five years in March, despite this agreement’s major flaws—it omits tactical nuclear weapons, is technologically outdated, and does not include China. Outside of New START, Russia pursued missile technologies that evade U.S. missile defenses by testing sea-launched hypersonic cruise missiles from frigates and a submarine in 2021. Russia is also developing the Burevestnik, a long-range, nuclear-powered, and nuclear-armed cruise missile, and the Poseidon, a nuclear-powered underwater drone—neither covered by New START. Further, Russia’s newest ICBM, the R-26 Sarmat, is expected to enter service in late 2022. This advanced, heavy ICBM is designed to evade U.S. defenses and could carry as many as twenty nuclear warheads or a hypersonic glide vehicle.
What America Can Do
The surge and increased sophistication in missile production programs by America’s adversaries require a substantial commitment by the United States. Accordingly, consistent and robust integrated and missile defense funding is needed to reflect a recognition of these missile programs as both immediate and long-term threats.
It is long past time to embrace air and missile defenses as a critical deterrent that disrupts the aggressive missile strategies of U.S. enemies—they are not a destabilizing factor, as some disarmament advocates contend.
The U.S. homeland must enhance its missile and air defenses to stay ahead of rogue actors and near-peer missile programs—like Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China. A proper defense strategy must include the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) program, scheduled to be deployed in 2028.
In addition to NGI, the United States needs to accelerate investments in currently deployed missile defense technologies like THAAD, PAC-3, and SM-3 to defend, deter, and defeat threats to the U.S. homeland and its allies.
There should be an expanded investment in offensive and defensive hypersonic strike capabilities. This must include both the Hypersonic and Ballistic Missile Space Sensor and operational U.S. hypersonic missiles.
There should also be increased investment in other advanced missile defense technologies—specifically, directed energy systems such as high-energy lasers, high-powered microwave weapons, and particle beam weapons.
Instead of playing catch-up to the Chinese and Russians, we need to shift the paradigm to directed energy weapons as they show the most promise at defending against hypersonics. This could likely be in place on the ground, on ships, or on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the near future. We should also accelerate research into how directed energy functions in space. Reusable launch platforms and increased commercial activity in this area present an opportunity to drive down costs and accelerate the deployment of capabilities.
However, there’s some good news in the short term. The Biden administration essentially retained the Trump administration’s spending levels on missile defense in its 2022 budget request, pending the completion of its Missile Defense Review. Congress also succeeded in reversing some of the Biden administration’s proposed missile defense budget cuts. This review should be publicly issued in the end of February 2022, and in tandem with the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review.
President Joe Biden’s 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) request for missile defense and defeat will probably be very different due to the Missile Defense Review, which is likely to reflect how missile defense has long been an anathema to most liberals—including Biden—who have portrayed it as wasteful and ineffective. Moreover, many liberals maintain that U.S. missile defense is destabilizing because it provokes Russia and China to buy more long-range warheads to overcome missile defenses, leading to an arms race.
Throughout his career, Biden has been critical of U.S. missile defense. As a senator, he regularly opposed missile defense spending and was a staunch defender of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. As vice president, Biden played a key role in the 2009 dismantling of missile defense programs, including the only operational system that could blunt ballistic attacks on the homeland by North Korea. However, the Obama-Biden administration raced to restore this program in 2015 in response to a surge in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
For the above reasons, Biden’s national security staff will probably resist missile defense spending. Instead, the staff will remain susceptible and fall to pressure from liberal arms control groups who hope to curtail missile defense programs.
Hal Brands is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, the Henry Kissinger Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Most recently, he is the co-author of “The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order.”+ Get alerts for Hal Brands
As vice president in January 2017, Joe Biden gave a speech endorsing the idea of a “world without nuclear weapons.” Last year, he took office pledging to reduce America’s reliance on those weapons — perhaps with a promise that Washington would never use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, or perhaps by cutting, even eliminating, the country’s intercontinental ballistic missile force.
Biden’s first year has been a reality check. The threat of Russian aggression in Eastern Europe has reminded American allies of the role that U.S. nuclear weapons might play in their defense. Thanks to a dramatic Chinese nuclear buildup, America will soon confront a nuclear peer in the Pacific. North Korea keeps expanding its arsenal. Some American allies in Europe and Asia have lobbied against a no-first-use pledge or cuts in the U.S. arsenal.
The U.S. does have lots of experience with nuclear statecraft, as I discuss in my new book, “The Twilight Struggle: What the Cold War Teaches Us About Great-Power Rivalry Today.” During the Cold War, U.S. conventional forces were mostly outmatched in Europe and other key theaters. The threat of nuclear escalation was the ultimate guarantee of the free world’s security, and the nuclear balance shaped risk-taking and decision-making on both sides of the East-West divide.
Yet because the use of nuclear weapons would be so horrific, nuclear strategy involved stark dilemmas. How could Washington balance the need to avoid nuclear war with the imperative of being able to win it? Should the U.S. use nuclear weapons overwhelmingly at the outset of a contest, in hopes of prevailing rapidly, or should it escalate gradually, in hopes of limiting the resulting damage? Most fundamentally, how could it credibly threaten to use nuclear weapons if doing so might shatter civilization?
Different presidents offered different answers to these questions. Some of the problems were simply insoluble. But the resulting debates were usually rich and thoughtful; America produced a vast community of individuals — Bernard Brodie, Thomas Schelling, Herman Kahn and Andrew Marshall were some of the standouts — who understood the challenges of the nuclear age. Nuclear war was both unthinkable and all too plausible, so a global superpower had little choice but to prepare for that eventuality as thoroughly as possible.
That changed when the Cold War ended. The threat of Armageddon receded drastically. The U.S. became so militarily dominant that it hardly needed nuclear weapons. Dangers persisted, but they were primarily posed by nuclear terrorism, loose nukes and the weapons programs of relatively weak states such as North Korea.
There was also an intellectual drawdown, as nuclear strategy went out of style. Ambitious policy wonks and military officers gravitated toward other issues. America’s strategic nuclear arsenal was so far from mind that the 2002 National Security Strategy contained no mention of it at all.
Biden’s speech in January 2017 captured the residual optimism of an era in which great-power nuclear competition seemed like an anachronism. By that point, however, a new nuclear age had already begun.
If nuclear weapons became less relevant after the Cold War, not everyone got the memo. India and Pakistan pushed their way into the nuclear club, with dueling tests in 1998. North Korea made its small arsenal ever-more menacing. Iran crept toward the nuclear threshold. And it wasn’t just lesser powers improving their capabilities.
China is now building a more secure and sophisticated “nuclear triad” — a combination of nuclear-capable bombers, ground-based intercontinental missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Its ICBM force is expanding rapidly. The Pentagon predicts that China will have more than 1,000 deliverable warheads by 2030 — an arsenal worthy of a superpower.
The return of great-power competition has brought with it the return of nuclear rivalry. Meanwhile, conventional weakness is making nuclear weapons even more important to U.S. strategy.
The likelihood of a great-power war going nuclear is significantly higher than most Americans probably realize. If China attacked Taiwan, it would probably use its conventional missiles to maul America’s air and naval assets in the Pacific. Within days, the U.S. might face a choice between seeing Taiwan defeated or using low-yield nuclear weapons against Chinese ports, airfields or invasion fleets.
China might also have incentives to go nuclear. Starting, and then losing, a war against the U.S. could be a fatal mistake for President Xi Jinping. If an invasion of Taiwan faltered, Beijing could try to turn the tide, or simply convince America to quit, by firing nuclear-tipped missiles at or near Guam or another important U.S. military facility in the region. Such coercive uses of nuclear weapons may be what China has in mind in enlarging its arsenal today.
Nukes would also loom large in a conflict between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moscow can conquer territory in Eastern Europe, but it probably can’t win a long war against NATO. The scenario that worries American planners is known as “escalate to de-escalate”: In essence, Russia grabs some land and then threatens to use nuclear weapons, or perhaps even fires a warning shot, to compel NATO to make peace on Putin’s terms.
These possibilities began to influence U.S. strategy under President Donald Trump. That administration touted “limited” nuclear options — the ability to conduct a small number of strikes to defeat Chinese or Russian conventional aggression or to deter their threats of nuclear escalation. It invested in submarine-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles that could be equipped with low-yield nuclear warheads. “If you want peace,” wrote one recently departed Pentagon official in 2018, “prepare for nuclear war.”
Biden is now facing the same problems. Nuclear weapons are becoming more, rather than less, important; the scope for responsible reductions in the size or role of America’s arsenal is shrinking fast. Yet the dilemmas surrounding nuclear statecraft are as vexing as ever.
First, the fact that it may be necessary to threaten nuclear escalation to defend far-flung U.S. friends does not automatically mean that such threats are credible. During the Cold War, Washington could semi-plausibly threaten to unleash the apocalypse to stop Moscow from conquering Europe and Asia. Today, the idea of starting even a “limited” nuclear war over Taiwan might well strike most Americans as farcical, especially as China’s ability to inflict catastrophic retaliation on the U.S. increases.
Third, the U.S. has barely begun to wrap its head around the problem of tripolar nuclear competition. During the Cold War, America had only one nuclear peer, the Soviet Union. Soon it will have two.
That could leave some strategists wanting a significantly larger nuclear arsenal, at a time when the Pentagon’s continuing nuclear modernization is already behind schedule and many U.S. conventional forces also desperately need an upgrade. And the dynamics of nuclear deterrence, crisis stability and arms control are likely to grow more complicated with three roughly equal actors involved.
This relates to a fourth issue: We’re in terra incognita when it comes to arms control. Done properly, arms control isn’t silly peacenik stuff: It can be a hardheaded way of keeping nuclear competition within bounds or even steering it into areas that favor the U.S. But the arms control frameworks that Washington and Moscow built during the Cold War have mostly collapsed over the past two decades.
Finally, how will nuclear dangers affect America’s conventional warfighting plans? Defeating a Russian attack in the Baltics would probably require suppressing air defenses and artillery on Russian territory — which might take NATO across Moscow’s nuclear red line.
These are problems without obvious solutions. And they are made even harder by the fact that America’s nuclear expertise is not what it once was.
Today, the U.S. is reaping the consequences of its post-Cold War nuclear holiday. Comparatively few top- or mid-level officials, civilian or military, have deep experience in nuclear issues. There is, fortunately, a fair amount of academic expertise on these issues, thanks in part to a few foundations that made countercyclical — and at the time, counterintuitive — investments in nuclear studies. But the U.S. has far less intellectual capital on nuclear issues than it did during the Cold War, and far less than it will need in the years to come.