1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Public Misconceptions about Earthquakes

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by GingerCoffee, Apr 2, 2014.

    Why do so many people remain so uninformed about this very common phenomena?

    Time and time again the news media reports on a newsworthy earthquake. The latest is the 8.2 quake in Chile, and just recently, the moderate 5.1 quake in the LA area were both newsworthy.

    So why do the reporters continue to be so ignorant about quakes?

    It's no surprise the question comes up, did the LA quake trigger the quake in Chile? But you'd think someone in the news department would know by now there are more than 1,300 mag 5-5.9 quakes every year round the world. There were 46 mag 5-6 earthquakes in the last week and about 40 of them were in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

    The answer should be common knowledge but yesterday I saw the question poorly answered several times on different news channels, saying "we don't know", without mentioning how many mag 5 quakes also occurred besides the one in LA.


    Some quakes do trigger more. Typically if tension is released by a fault slip, it results in increased tension elsewhere on the fault. Very large quakes ring the Earth like a bell, so the movement could trigger a fault elsewhere to slip. But the likelihood the LA quake had any significant effect on a quake not even on the same crustal plate is close to nil.


    We are due here in the NW for the really big one. The Cascadia Subduction Zone fault is stuck, it doesn't slip easily. Then every 300-500 years it breaks with a mag 9+ quake. The last mega-quake was in the year 1700 and the tsunami from it is recorded in Japanese historical paintings. I don't like seeing the occasional mag 7 quakes on either end of the stuck zone, but there have been many, and they didn't trigger a slip.

    It's also fascinating there are GPS stations dotting the Olympic Peninsula. These record recurring slow slipping. The continental North American Plate bulges up, then slides over the underlying San Juan de Fuca Plate in 11-15 month cycles.

    http://www.pnsn.org/blog/Vidale_pages.pdf
     
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  2. Jay Dee
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    Jay Dee New Member

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    Agreed. I live in Japan, and over the 9 years I've lived here, I've been through many earthquakes, including the 2011 9.0 magnitude Tohoku earthquake. The media here doesn't overblow things. They don't act like what you're describing. They just state the facts, considering earthquakes here are a fact of life. They're so common that people just carry on doing what they were doing and discuss the quake like they'd discuss a rainfall that just happened.

    I used to live in Victoria, and I got to hear about the Cascadia earthquake often. I went through the February 28, 2001 earthquake. That was quite the experience. But I've been through several bigger ones since then.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps, as @Jay Dee mentions, it's a matter of if it's part of their local landscape or not. Quakes are common where I live as well. I live off of the Atlantic analogue fault-line to where Jay Dee lives. The Izu-Bonin-Mariana subduction system - which includes the deepest place in all the oceans, the Mariana Trench - runs the length of Japan. The Puerto Rico Trench, part of the Lesser Antilles Subduction system, is directly off of the north shore of Puerto Rico and is the second deepest place in all of the oceans and the deepest place in the Atlantic Ocean. Mag 3-&-change shakers are very common here. I'm often awoken to the sensation of the building swaying. The mag 6.4 that we had a few months ago was the biggest we've had in a while, but mag 5-&-change quakes, though not weekly or monthly events, are common enough.

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    For the same reason they considered alien abduction and traveling black hole as explanations for the Malaysian Airlines flight.

    That one that's due on the Cascadia Subduction Zone scares me. Earthquakes are always big on my mind whenever I go to the west coast. That's why I like the Midwest and East Coast. ;-)
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Chicago Tornados

    So. Cal earthquakes

    Not directly comparable but I don't understand why people always think earthquakes are more dangerous than other natural disasters.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Puerto Rico is host to two kinds of such natural events: earthquakes and hurricanes. I think people are given the holy-shits more strongly here by earthquakes because of their unpredictability. They come out of nowhere and a hurricane is something you know is coming days out. Even tornadoes, as random and viciously violent as they can be, have a precursor. I know that having a precursor in no way lessens the eventual damage any given event can cause, but maybe in the human psyche, this lessens that monster-in-the-closetness of perception.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It's not that the public where few earthquakes occur are uninformed. My issue is why are the news reporters who cover these events time and times again are so poorly informed?

    I know this is a separate subject but it's related. I've known about the tide rushing out before a tsunami wave since I was a child. I was shocked by how few people recognized that forewarning in the 2004 Banda Aceh quake. In the 2011 Japan tsunami, it looked like a lot of people just couldn't get to safety in time but there were still people who didn't react until the water arrived.

    Curious, @Wreybies, if kids in PR are taught the warning sign of a rapid low tide?
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2014
  8. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    In the beginning of January there was a small quake near Cuba that we felt in the Keys. It was so slight, almost like that dizzy feeling you get when looking in a fun house mirror, and lasted only a couple seconds, but it freaked me the hell out because I've never in my life experienced anything like that. I went through Hurricane Andrew in '92 and lost everything and have been through many since so am not new to natural disasters, but when you're unfamiliar with a particular one it is unnerving or when it happens in a location ill prepared, like the ice storm in Atlanta this year, it's, IMO, newsworthy. Our local news did go on overkill talking about that itty bitty earthquake, and I agree reporters, and sometimes even field "experts" shouldn't make more of something than what it is just for the sake of building a larger audience, but those first couple days had everyone's interest here. This day in age people have near immediate access to worldly events and find interest in things they know little about, from the ridiculous to the extreme.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    They are now. Since the 2004 and 2013 tsunamis, Puerto Rico has been looking off it's northern shore with dread. It's the very type of deep subduction zone that, were a portion to skid suddenly under or pop a section suddenly upward, it would move the entire water column and that's what makes tsunamis, and we're talking the second deepest water column on Earth. When you travel PR2 from the San Juan area westward, around the turn at Aguadilla and then down toward Mayagüez, we have tsunami warning signs at low areas not protected by forward facing elevations.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    What I don't understand:
    -Hey, this entire city was destroyed by an earthquake. Let's build a new city on top of it.
    -This river floods every couple of years. Let's move really close to it....repeatedly.
    -This city on the coast averages 2 feet below sea level. Let's see how many people we can get to live here.

    I know not all natural disasters can be avoided, and in some situations (like the Missouri River) the reward outweighs the risk, but when I read about catastrophic earthquakes in major cities, I can't help but think, "No shit."
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Well for the quakes, we're pretty good at how to build safe buildings. You see a mag 5 quake in rural Asia or Eastern Europe and there can be thousands of deaths. The mag 5.1 in LA cracked a few walls. A mag 6 quake here will knock a few bricks off chimneys and a mag 7 might cause damage to a limited number of buildings and overpasses.

    As for building on flood plains, yeah, that's stupid.
     
  12. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    What was that earthquake proof city in Japan? Kobe?
    Mother Nature says no.
     
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  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I didn't say "proof" I said "pretty good". Most new buildings in Japan can withstand big quakes. Tokyo was nearly flattened in 1923. They rebuilt it with expertly designed buildings. Kobe had older buildings.

    And there is some good tsunami protection there as well. What they didn't plan well enough for was the ground subsiding which lowered the height of the tsunami barriers.

    So how about Shreveport, are you safe from hurricanes and ocean surges there? ;)
     
  14. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. Shreveport is/was a river port in NW Louisiana. Occasionally, the river used to break the levees and the bayous would flood. With the lock and dam system they constructed a while ago, we don't see much of that anymore.

    However, I used to live on Galvatraz (Galveston, TX) and read the book Isaac's Storm* while living right on the seawall. That'll make you think twice before building a condo there.

    *if you want a good read on the worst natural disaster in North America
     
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  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Where I live, that's the Hatillo/Arecibo area. Low-lying all the way to the ocean, the deepest part of the trench directly off shore, flood-plain, heavily populated. We joke that if it rains on the south side of the island, Hatillo will flood, and sure enough, it happens three times a month during the rainy season, once a month during the dry. If you had to pick a spot on Puerto Rico in which to anchor that southernmost tip of the Bermuda Triangle, it would be Hatillo/Arecibo.

    [​IMG]
     
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  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    whereabouts in the NW are you, ginger?

    an island in puget sound?

    i agree with all you said, but as someone else noted, those of us who live/have lived in earthquake zones are more likely to be knowledgable about the phenomenon and its causes than others...

    i've lived in earthquake. tsunami and volcanic eruption-prone areas [LA, seattle, tinian, among others], so also bemoan the silly stuff we're subjected to in news reports... though i can understand their ignorance, i can't forgive their not taking the time to at least learn the basics...
     
  17. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because they just are.

    Also, you have *some* warning that a tornado is forming. You're aware first of all, of certain weather conditions, and then the NWS issues a "watch." Then when there is a warning, they can tell you roughly where the tornado is. I'm not saying it wouldn't be scary as all Hell to be in the path of one. Just that there is at least a tiny element of predictability, whereas with an earthquake there is none.
     
  18. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Isaac's Storm was an awesome book. The scariest thing about that, though, was that they really didn't know what was coming. Today, we'd know. Not that that would protect the physical structure of your condo, but at least there's no reason you should die.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    And yet 1,800+ people died in Katrina flooding.

    A lot more tornados and hurricanes on this list than quakes:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disasters_in_the_United_States_by_death_toll

    I'm not arguing with perception, we all have our own when it comes to disaster threat perceptions.


    @mammamaia: I'm in Bellevue, a Seattle 'burb. My house, unfortunately lies almost directly on the Seattle Fault. :eek: My house is about where the 'f' in 'fault' is on this map:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Seattle_Fault_location.png


    I can't delete those numbers above, board weirdness.
     
  20. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, yeah -- just like a lot of people are more afraid to fly in a plane than to drive in a car.
     
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  21. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    We can't be too careful around nature. History has shown us that if we underestimate nature, if we don't prepare enough, horrific things happen when a storm comes rolling in. The flooding after Katrina happened because the levees weren't inspected to make sure they'd hold in the event of a massive hurricane. Even if we do know a storm is coming, we still have to make sure our protection is up to date, because if it doesn't hold out, we'll end up regretting it at the end.

    If you live in an area that's prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes, you need to be prepared.
     
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