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March 11, 2015

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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October 24, 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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September 11, 2014

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

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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May 16, 2014

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 2, 2014

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 …

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March 12, 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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January 11, 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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November 19, 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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October 17, 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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