September 11, 2014

Lurching ground and bouncing bridges in the Napa earthquake

Lurching ground and bouncing bridges in the Napa earthquake

My rides along Amtrak California’s Capitol Corridor now include an eerie stretch where they pass the site at which the highest ground motions in the Napa earthquake were recorded mere weeks ago. Just at the south abutments of the I-80 bridges over the Carquinez Strait, where the Union Pacific tracks pass through the C&H refinery, a shallow borehole seismometer recorded an acceleration of 0.99g, nearly the full force of gravity lurching soil and …

Read More >>



August 30, 2014

Earthquake rupture through a U.S. suburb

Earthquake rupture through a U.S. suburb

In the quiet wee hours of a NorCal summer night, the ground lurched beneath the mud of the northern San Francisco Bay and sent seismic waves roaring upward and outward into the world-famous wine valley’s central city, Napa, CA. After they wreaked their havoc in Napa and nearby communities the seismic waves spread farther afield and gently rumbled most of the Bay Area and its exurbs from our weekend slumber. By the time …

Read More >>



June 16, 2014

Watch buildings move during earthquakes

Watch buildings move during earthquakes

Through literal eons of Earth’s history, earthquakes have heaved the ground, shuddered the trees, and sent fauna scurrying. Yet aside from the occasional tsunami and the localized sloughing of rock faces and hillsides, they’d never really been directly injurious to the animal kingdom. …Until the animals started “sheltering” themselves under ponderous weights of precarious things. As the adage goes, “earthquakes don’t kill people; buildings do.” That edifice that so importantly protects you …

Read More >>



May 16, 2014

An earthquake live at the symphony

An earthquake live at the symphony

Earthquakes have been orchestrated in some of the most important musical works of the past two centuries (take for example the close of the first part of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, or the 5th movement of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony); now in some musical works the orchestras have been quaked. On March 29, 2014, the L.A. Philharmonic was performing Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé at Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, when a 5.1 earthquake jostled …

Read More >>



April 18, 2014

What would the 1906 earthquake look like today?

What would the 1906 earthquake look like today?

Today is the 108th anniversary of the devastating M7.8 San Francisco earthquake. As with any “quakiversary” it’s a ripe opportunity for reflection on how earthquake knowledge and engineering have progressed since we learned from that disaster, and to consider how we would fare if faced with the same catastrophe today. One powerful way to consider how modern-day San Francisco would fare in a repeat of the 1906 quake is by …

Read More >>



April 2, 2014

Monstrous earthquake in Chile… as it unfolds

Monstrous earthquake in Chile... as it unfolds

The northern coast of Chile has been struck by a Great earthquake this evening, shaking the South America continent for hundreds of miles and thrusting a tsunami onshore and across the Pacific Ocean. Notably, this earthquake occurred in a well known seismic gap, the sole reach of South America’s Pacific coast subduction zone that did not rupture in the 20th (or 21st) century. In that sense, this was one of …

Read More >>



March 28, 2014

The second largest quake on the planet: photos, videos, and its informative legacy

The second largest quake on the planet: photos, videos, and its informative legacy

As I am sure everyone has recognized by now, one of the biggest earthquakes recorded in our planet’s history–and the biggest in the United States–rocked Alaska for some three+ minutes 50 years ago today. The 1964 Good Friday earthquake, known also as the Great Alaska earthquake, measured magnitude 9.2. The earthquake shocked the fledgling state with catastrophic environmental effects, including most notably the lateral-spreading collapse of entire neighborhoods in the capital …

Read More >>



March 12, 2014

Tohoku tsunami maps: lessons for the Pacific Northwest

Tohoku tsunami maps: lessons for the Pacific Northwest

As we pass the three-year mark since one of the most astoundingly gargantuan earthquakes in human history, we marvel at the unprecedented opportunity it gave us to understand earthquakes, tsunamis, oceanic subduction, litho-hydro-atmospheric coupling, plate tectonics, and the Earth itself. We can also appreciate, with humble reverence, the lessons it continues to teach us about the social dimensions of disaster trauma, risk, and resilience. Japan continues to struggle, now largely …

Read More >>



February 18, 2014

How hard has your zip code shaken?

How hard has your zip code shaken?

Did you feel it? …Ever? These USGS maps show the highest shaking intensity reported in every zip code throughout the U.S. (and cities of the world) in the past two decades. 1991 – 2012  The USGS’s crowd-sourced Community Internet Intensity Maps, popularly known as “Did-You-Feel-It” maps, have been collecting online surveys of seismic shaking intensity since 1997. There’ve been plenty of quakes in that time, and in 2012 researchers put together …

Read More >>



February 5, 2014

Stunning HD videos show volcanoes erupting … gorgeously

Stunning HD videos show volcanoes erupting ... gorgeously

As the Tectonic Plates bend, creak, snap, and rattle in earthquakes, blobs of heated rock rise through them from within and punch through the surface, puffing out vast clouds of rock dust and volatile gas, and pouring out mounds upon mounds of hardening molten rock. Volcanoes may fall under the purview of some other realms of the blogosphere, but a spate of recent videos are just too stunning (and informative!) …

Read More >>



January 16, 2014

Two decades since L.A.’s Northridge earthquake

Two decades since L.A.'s Northridge earthquake

It’s already been twenty years since Los Angeles was last really rocked by an earthquake. The 4:31am Northridge temblor, a magnitude 6.7 that literally threw the city from its sleep, was the iconic natural disaster of the 1990s and the last in a string of quakes, fires, and mudslides to pummel Los Angeles in the early half of the decade. Though violent, destructive, and memorable, the Northridge quake struck merely …

Read More >>



January 11, 2014

New map of Hollywood fault released

New map of Hollywood fault released

Amid an atmosphere of contention and high stakes, the California Geological Survey this week released a preliminary official map of the Hollywood Fault, one of the most threatening urban earthquake faults in the U.S. The map ( available in PDF format here ) delineates the best estimate surface trace of the Hollywood fault, which forms the southern boundary of the Santa Monica Mountains in urban Los Angeles. It also defines a “special …

Read More >>



December 9, 2013

AGU 2013: Earth Science-palooza

AGU 2013: Earth Science-palooza

After braving excruciating cold, ice-bound airports, and snow-covered mountain passes to get here, some 21,000 Earth Scientists have descended on San Francisco for the annual AGU Fall Meeting. They’ll all be happy to know that the National Weather Service calls for freezing temperatures in all areas except San Francisco tonight. So everyone from Back East can still pretend they’re having a balmy California vacation while we locals wrap our heads …

Read More >>



November 25, 2013

The strongest quaking ever seen on video

The strongest quaking ever seen on video

Earthquake videos abound on Youtube, but there are a select few that truly stand apart for the astonishing strength of the ground motion they capture. Even with gargantuan earthquakes that have hit tech-savvy, video-grabbing cities, very few cameras have ever been located in places that experienced truly extreme ground motions. Of course, in the future this number will increase. For now, in all my perusal of YouTube quake videos, I …

Read More >>



November 19, 2013

The dilemma of earthquake retrofitting

The dilemma of earthquake retrofitting

The Los Angeles Times in October went on a bit of a crusade against lagging earthquake preparations in their quake-threatened home town. They have published a series of exposés investigating the lack of public awareness and the governmental inaction regarding building safety in the aging metropolis of L.A. “Concrete Risks” is indeed an illuminating piece, publicizing the fairly alarming prevalence of dangerous, quake-prone construction throughout a city that’s doomed to …

Read More >>



October 21, 2013

Watch the whole U.S. ripple

Watch the whole U.S. ripple

Want to see what happens to the ground in the United States when an earthquake snaps the crust elsewhere in the world? The waves ripple outward through the continent oscillating each county and city in turn. This video shows real data from seismometers deployed across the country. Each dot represents a seismometer. Each instrument’s motion is displayed here as alternating red (for upward motion) and blue (for downward motion). Individually …

Read More >>



October 17, 2013

Are you ready for an earthquake? Make sure today.

Are you ready for an earthquake? Make sure today.

What if an earthquake hit right now, the moment you read this? A big one. You get a few seconds of puzzling low rumbling to figure out what’s going on, and then the room you’re in lurches to the side and back. The floor bounces, the walls creak and crackle, books and papers topple and slide, and heavy things all around you start to wobble and flop over. You had no …

Read More >>



October 7, 2013

Earthquake PSAs around the world

Earthquake PSAs around the world

Earthquake public service announcements run the gamut from trite and dry to hip, beautiful, and even charming. The production quality of recent campaigns attests to both their importance and the practicality of raising awareness inexpensively through the Internet Media Machine. Public awareness and training about earthquake risks forms the foundation of any risk mitigation effort; building retrofits cost tons, but people can be trained how to protect themselves for far …

Read More >>



October 2, 2013

The creative forces of earthquakes

The creative forces of earthquakes

For all the destruction wrought when human settlements and infrastructure are shaken by tectonic forces, earthquakes are the result of processes that create and rejuvenate the landscapes we live in. In late September, 2013, a mighty earthquake ripped through the Pakistani desert, causing a surprisingly small number of casualties, but nonetheless rendering homeless over 100,000 people, a major swath of nearby mountain villages’ populations. In the vicinity of the epicenter …

Read More >>



August 13, 2013

Another heart-stopping tsunami video from Japan

Another heart-stopping tsunami video from Japan

A “new” video has emerged of the Tohoku tsunami racing inland in a Japanese port town. I don’t know that it’s never been released before, but I sure haven’t seen it, and I’ve seen basically all of them. The video is embedded at the end of this post. Update 8/19/13: I have changed the video link to a more original YouTube video. It appears that the videographer is a Mr. …

Read More >>



August 2, 2013

The jiggling Earth, or, what are all those squiggles?

The jiggling Earth, or, what are all those squiggles?

Ever since we first formally recorded one more or less a century and a score ago, the seismogram of an earthquake has become an iconic symbol. Oversimplified and unrealistic ones abound, but natural seismograms of earthquakes are distinctly identifiable. Despite the unique details of every earthquake, seismograms around the world are phenomenally similar. The differences among them are actually what allow seismologists to understand the propagation of earthquakes and the structure …

Read More >>



July 29, 2013

Teaching earthquake hazard at Field Camp

Teaching earthquake hazard at Field Camp

You may have noticed a lull in my blog posting before last week. I’ll go ahead and attribute that to a busy spate of scheduling, planning, and traveling for work; next time I’ll try to leave some auto-posts. Among the many tasks that diverted me were two particularly enjoyable ones: preparing for and teaching a module of UC Davis’s summer Field Geology course–“field camp” as it is widely, famously, and …

Read More >>



July 22, 2013

Help the USGS record a building implosion!

Help the USGS record a building implosion!

We all love watching the coordinated kabooms and dusty disappearance of a defunct building imploding in demolition, right? Heck, in Las Vegas it’s a spectacular ritual, touted flamboyantly as a tourist draw. Well the thunderous collapses of these buildings don’t merely satisfy our childish, sand-castle-smashing destructive tendencies; they radiate rumbling seismic waves through the soil and deep into the crust beneath them, “echoing” off of layers and boundaries hidden in …

Read More >>



July 21, 2013

Earthquakes shake NZ capital

Earthquakes shake NZ capital

New Zealand is at it again–or as usual–seismically. This time a series of strong earthquakes in the Cook Strait culminated Sunday morning with a M6.5 between the South and North Islands, shaking the national capital of Wellington and exacting a fair bit of damage around the region. The shocks started with two oddly steep convergent events, a 5.3 Friday morning and a 5.8 in the wee hours Sunday morning. Each …

Read More >>



June 23, 2013

John Muir’s 1872 earthquake and Sierran rockfalls

John Muir's 1872 earthquake and Sierran rockfalls

When you gaze upon the breathtaking vistas in Yosemite National Park the mind reels trying to take in and process the breathtaking natural beauty in front of you. At the same time, it strains and cringes as hordes of tourists unloading by the bus-full elbow to carve out their own little section of the crowd in which to pose for a stranger-free shot of the stunning natural scenery. It’s the …

Read More >>



June 11, 2013

Videos of Taiwan earthquake

On June 2, Taiwan was rocked by a pretty large earthquake. The magnitude 6.2 temblor resulted in 4 deaths, ~20 reported injuries, and a great deal of modest damage. EarthquakeVideoMex, a YouTube user/channel with consistently timely access to hard-to-find quake footage, has compiled the rather impressive videos captured during this quake. The Taiwanese appear to have the same affinity for dashboard cameras as the Russians, so a lot of these videos …

Read More >>



June 5, 2013

China’s earthquake ruins: a memorial ghost town

China's earthquake ruins: a memorial ghost town

Last month China unveiled an earthquake memorial park to commemorate the lives lost and damage wrought by the M7.9 Wenchuan earthquake that occurred 5 years ago this May. The Atlantic has a set of great photos showing the haunting site.   In addition to a brand new museum and memorial wall naming the >80,000 who lost their lives, the memorial includes the entire destroyed city of Beichuan, its crumbled and …

Read More >>



June 2, 2013

Danse de la Terre

Danse de la Terre

Last week marked 100 years since the debut of my favorite piece of music of all time: Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The ballet debuted to a legendary amount of controversy, but its cacophonous, haunting beauty has been recreated and rechoreographed countless times in the past century, including for example this 1975 Pina Bausch version of the culminating “Sacrificial Dance,” which I’m pretty certain forms the main inspiration for the 1983 Thriller …

Read More >>



May 29, 2013

Significant quake in the Northern Sierra

Significant quake in the Northern Sierra

Last Thursday my heart sank when, driving home along I-80, my phone exploded with texts and calls after an earthquake rolled through Davis. My friends had generally felt it, or at least had noticed and been confused by it, but alas, after five years of waiting around for one up here, I had been separated from it by four rubber dampers, metal shock absorbers, and 70 miles per hour. Even …

Read More >>



May 10, 2013

Wasatch! Part 2 – Protecting the capital’s Capitol

Wasatch! Part 2 - Protecting the capital's Capitol

After seeing the terrorizing evidence of the Wasatch Fault snaking its way through mountainfront Salt Lake City, our 2013 SSA field trip headed to the newly retrofit Utah State Capitol to see how the state is dealing with the looming threat of earthquakes. Reaveley Engineers’ Jerod Johnson, one of the head structural engineers on the retrofit project, led us on an in-depth tour of the facility, explaining all of the …

Read More >>



May 8, 2013

Wasatch! Part 1 – Geological evidence of a fearsome fault

Wasatch! Part 1 - Geological evidence of a fearsome fault

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a fieldtrip along the Wasatch Fault around and within Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah Geological Survey scientists Bill Lund and Chris DuRoss organized an impressively comprehensive tour as part of the 2013 annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America. We visited sites of interest for geology, seismology, engineering, and emergency management–a visit for each of the primary fields involved in understanding …

Read More >>