May 6, 2015

It’s 2015. We respond to earthquakes from space.

It's 2015. We respond to earthquakes from space.

The seismic waves ringing out from Nepal on April 25 reached sensors around the planet, mobilizing a vast, remote response that’s truly a sign of the times in modern seismic disaster recovery. While Kathmandu and the surrounding towns and villages stood shocked and crippled by the now-named Gorkha earthquake, satellites sweeping by overhead quickly gathered a picture of the scene, transmitting intricate detail of the disaster to the world with …

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April 17, 2015

Tearing through California Part 1: the Central San Andreas

Tearing through California Part 1: the Central San Andreas

On display in central and northern California is the rare and troublesome phenomenon that’s the mischievous cousin to sudden, wrenching earthquakes: slow, steady fault creep. Rather than remaining pressed firmly together until they lurch past each other in violent earthquakes, the two sides of a creeping fault glide gradually along, generally silently carrying along everything above them. The good news is that this process takes up strain that would otherwise be …

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March 11, 2015

Hollywood and the USGS both have announcements about California quakes

Hollywood and the USGS both have announcements about California quakes

The last day has been chock full of big public-facing announcements regarding earthquakes, so it’s a good time to step in and sort them out, as well as a good time for (real life) earthquake scientists to capitalize on the surge of awareness. The big real news comes from the USGS, which has finalized and released the most advanced seismic hazard model of California to date, the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture …

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January 29, 2015

A haunting 8-day-long orchestration of modern seismicity

A haunting 8-day-long orchestration of modern seismicity

We’re getting ever-richer ways to “view” the seismic restlessness of our planet, from this beautiful map of all the tremors we’ve recorded, and this sparkling NOAA animation of quakes in the past decade (or the last year), to the of tympanic drama of individual earthquake sequences. At the same time, artists find inspiration for performance in the fundamental natural rhythms of the planet, staging ballets and concerts backed with live seismic recordings, and composing music derived from seismograms …

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October 24, 2014

California quake aftermath seen from above

California quake aftermath seen from above

As Northern Californians picked up the pieces and cooled their nerves on the afternoon of August 24th, just hours after being jostled or lurched from bed by the 3:20am magnitude 6.0 South Napa quake, a satellite an aircraft whizzing by overhead snapped a shot of the scene. Check out some of these remarkable scenes within it that show damage, response, and recovery. The image is now visible in Google Earth, and in Google Maps on …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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