Posted in personal
March 11, 2011

I heart Caltech

One of the advantages to living in an active fault zone is that you find yourself with quake experts living in the background.

Whenever there’s a wake, the lovely people from CalTech come out and shine. They explain the science and keep people calm.

The Little Kidlet and I are watching a press conference with them, which I tweeted. I’m going to delete a lot of those tweets to share some of the information that they shared. These aren’t exact quotes, but hopefully this will be helpful information to all of you.

Kate from CalTech popped in to remind everyone that while it seems like there have been a lot of large quakes, that the only quakes in recent time that didn’t fall within an expected range have been this 8.9 quake in Japan and the 8.8 in Chile. While there are quakes in the 7.0 range, and those that cause damage- they do happen frequently, and are not necessarily indicative of anything out the norm, seismically.

Another gentleman popped in to talk about the GPS stations set up in Japan, and the actual landshifts. Any time that there’s a quake, the earth does literally move. While all the data is still coming in, they did see one station report a shift of approximately 8 feet to the east. Which sounds like a lot, but there was a greater shift from the Indonesia/Sumatra quake/tsunami event.

Suspender Guy (aka Thomas Heaton, director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory) then took over to talk about our fault lines and the fault lines in Japan. The reason their fault was able to produce a quake of this magnitude is because of how deep it is (and it’s off the coast). Here in Southern California, our fault lines are fairly shallow and directly under us. Which sounds frightening- but it means that if there’s a larger quake, the damage is mostly confined to the epicenter. An example of that sort of damage is the Christchurch quake in New Zealand, where the shallow fault was directly under the city.

They also discussed the tsunami waves here on the US Coast. The hardest hit area has been Crescent City, which had a surge of 6 feet, which destroyed their docks and many of the ships. Here in our area, there hasn’t been much seen, but because of how we are along the coast… that was expected.

I know that earthquakes and tsunamis are scary. But thanks to people like those at Caltech, they do take the time to explain what’s going on without sensationalizing it. Sadly, a lot of the coverage of this earthquake has been extremely sensational… geared towards scaring people into staying tuned, as opposed to making sure that they’re offering useful information.

Update: Caltech is reminding people that we aren’t necessarily out of the woods with tsunami danger- while there hasn’t been much “action” that could change, so please. Stay out of the water.

Update 12:22 Pacific Approximately an hour ago, a 6.6 earthquake struck Nagano. So far thats really all I’ve been able to find (I just got back from picking up the Oldest Kidlet at school). Since it was inland, there is no immediate risk of tsunami, and no reports yet of damage.

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