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21 March 2018

Twitter #EarthquakeCup is in full swing

In the grand tradition of #MammalMarchMadness, the exceedingly popular Twitter-poll-based geeky sciencey alternative to the US’s eponymous basketball tournament, which grew to extraordinary popularity after its inception by evolutionary biologist @Mammals_Suck […milk] (a.k.a. Katie Hinde), natural scientists have spawned a staggering array of spinoff competitions in their own fields. As it sweeps through the subdisciplines of geology, the phenomenon has arrived at earthquakes. Having a poll-based competition among history’s “greatest” …

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19 February 2018

78 seconds of Earthquake Early Warning

Late on Friday afternoon, February 16, during the Chinese New Year street fair in la Ciudad de México, the tight hold between the North America and Cocos plates failed, the fault slipped, and the Pacific coast of Oaxaca lurched around a meter out toward the ocean. Within six seconds, the profound ripple this let loose through the crust heaved the Huazolotitlán seismic recording station westward as well, followed shortly by …

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20 September 2017

Get Prepared Now

The scenes of violent shaking in dense urban Mexico City from the new Sept 19 earthquake are genuinely horrifying. Buildings twist, collide, crumble, buckle, and collapse before your eyes like some scene out of a movie; trees thrash wildly as boatmen on the Xochimilco Canals struggle for balance on a river being thrown violently from its banks; inside, furniture flies across rooms and ceilings cave in while desperate residents and officeworkers …

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11 April 2017

Who feels earthquakes?

Earthquakes are felt by people somewhere on the globe just about hourly (see this USGS list of felt earthquakes in just the last 24 hours). Some places are particularly prone to them–think Japan, Indonesia, Chile, Italy, California–while some stable parts of the continents will go generations, or even millennia, without anyone there feeling any quaking of the ground. But even in, say, California, where “felt” earthquakes occur daily, most individuals go months …

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22 November 2016

Here’s what earthquake early warning looks like

When a large earthquake struck the coast of Japan near Fukushima Tuesday morning, people all across the country were alerted nearly immediately–most in advance of significant shaking at their location–by the nation’s sophisticated early warning system. Early warning doesn’t predict the onset of an earthquake, but it does predict the shaking level and time of arrival at locations all around the epicenter once one has begun but before its seismic …

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6 May 2015

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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24 October 2014

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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30 August 2014

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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16 June 2014

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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18 April 2014

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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12 March 2014

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 …

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18 February 2014

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 …

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16 January 2014

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 …

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11 January 2014

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 …

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9 December 2013

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 …

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19 November 2013

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 …

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17 October 2013

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 …

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7 October 2013

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 …

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29 July 2013

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 …

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22 July 2013

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 …

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