Monday, November 29, 2010

Some earthquake statistics and graphs

I'm going through some browser bookmarks and saving them to my Delicious lists, and listing some here as I go.

There are some nice data sets and some linked  visualizations of earthquake statistics on this page from the U.S. Geological Survey.  As copied in the table below (click on it for a larger version), Note that the number of quakes above magnitude 6 have not increased over time.  There is an apparent increase in the number of smaller earthquakes, but this is an artifact of better seismograph networks.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blockbuster Chinese film on earthquakes

From the New York Times:

To call “Aftershock” a melodrama doesn’t really do it justice. Shortly after Feng Xiaogang’s film begins, a woman whose husband has just died in the devastating 1976 Tangshan earthquake looks up and screams: “God! You bastard!” And things go downhill from there. Before you know it, she has a Sophie’s choice to make involving her two trapped children and a concrete slab. These scenes, including a highly effective rendering of the earthquake, which killed an estimated 240,000 people, are dispatched quickly. But the pain is just beginning. — Mike Hale

The full NY Times review is here.

And here is the trailer:

2009, Disasters in Numbers - Earthquakes often are the worst

From the United Nations ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction):

According to the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters, 3,852 disasters killed more than 780,000 people over the past ten years, affected more than two billion others and cost a minimum of 960 billion US$.  This is from the report 2009: Disasters in Numbers.

In the past decade, nearly 60 per cent of the people killed by disasters died because of earthquakes. After earthquakes, storms (22%) and extreme temperatures (11%) were the most deadly disasters between 2000 and 2009.

The most deadly disasters of the 2000 decade were the Indian Ocean Tsunami, which hit several countries in Asia (2004) leaving 226,408 dead; Cyclone Nargis, which killed 138,366 people in Myanmar (2008); and the Sichuan earthquake in China (2008), causing the deaths of 87,476 people. 73,338 people were also killed in the earthquake in Pakistan (2005) and 72,210 in heat waves in Europe (2003).

In 2009, the total number of people killed and affected by disasters was lower than in 2008, as no major disaster occurred: 327 events killed 10,416 people, affected nearly 113 million others and caused a total of 34.9 billion US$ economic damages. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New book on Midwestern earthquake hazard

Disaster Deferred: How New Science Is Changing our View of Earthquake Hazards in the Midwest
Seth Stein
Columbia University Press

October, 2010
Cloth, 296 pages, 55 halftones, 38 line drawings, 2 tables
ISBN: 978-0-231-15138-2
$27.95 / £19.95
Although the government claims that parts of the Midwest face earthquake danger equal to or greater than California's, new science over the past 20 years shows that these claims are exaggerated. The series of earthquakes that struck Missouri 200 years ago were much smaller than the public has been led to believe.  There are no signs that similar large earthquakes are likely to happen in the next few hundred years. The billions of dollars needed to bring buildings in parts of the Midwest like Memphis and St. Louis up to California's earthquake resistant standards are a waste of taxpayer money and divert dollars from far worthier causes.

In the winter of 1811-12, a series of large earthquakes in the New Madrid seismic zone-often incorrectly described as the biggest ever to hit the United States-shook the Midwest. Today the federal government ranks the hazard in the Midwest as high as California's and is pressuring communities to undertake expensive preparations for disaster.

Coinciding with the two-hundredth anniversary of the New Madrid earthquakes, Disaster Deferred revisits these earthquakes, the legends that have grown around them, and the predictions of doom that have followed in their wake. Seth Stein clearly explains the techniques seismologists use to study Midwestern quakes and estimate their danger. Detailing how limited scientific knowledge, bureaucratic instincts, and the media's love of a good story have exaggerated these hazards, Stein calmly debunks the hype surrounding such predictions and encourages the formulation of more sensible, less costly policy. Powered by insider knowledge and an engaging style, Disaster Deferred shows how new geological ideas and data, including those from the Global Positioning System, are painting a very different-and much less frightening-picture of the future.

Seth Stein is Deering Professor of Geological Sciences at Northwestern.

To read an interview with the author or to find out more about this work go to:

New book on Ancient Earthquakes

Geological Society of America
Ancient Earthquakes
Editors: Manuel Sintubin, Iain S. Stewart, Tina M. Niemi, Erhan Altunel
2010, 280 p., $85
ISBN 9780813724713

Ancient earthquakes are pre-instrumental earthquakes that can only be identified through indirect evidence in the archaeological (archaeoseismology) and geological (palaeoseismology) record. Special Paper 471 includes a selection of cases convincingly illustrating the different ways the archaeological record is used in earthquake studies. The first series of papers focuses on the relationship between human prehistory and tectonically active environments, and on the wide range of societal responses to historically known earthquakes. The bulk of papers concerns archaeoseismology, showing the diversity of approaches, the wide range of disciplines involved, and its potential to contribute to a better understanding of earthquake history. Ancient Earthquakes will be of interest to the broad community of earth scientists, seismologists, historians, and archaeologists active in and around archaeological sites in the many regions around the world threatened by seismic hazards. This Special Paper frames in the International Geoscience Programme IGCP 567 “Earthquake Archaeology: Archaeoseismology along the Alpine-Himalayan Seismic Zone.”

Seismologist Eugene T. Herrin obituary

From Southern Methodist University:

Dr. Eugene T. Herrin Jr., an internationally respected seismologist and holder of the Shuler-Foscue Endowed Chair in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at SMU, died of a heart attack on November 20, 2010.

A professor at SMU since 1956, Herrin was known for his pioneering work in detecting nuclear explosions. He discovered that certain wave generators, including explosions and earthquakes, create not only seismic waves but also infrasound waves. Based on that discovery, Herrin was one of the first proponents of using seismo-acoustic analysis to distinguish the difference between mining explosions, earthquakes and underground nuclear weapons tests.

“Dr. Herrin’s work has played a critical role in establishing accurate worldwide monitoring of nuclear tests,” said Brian Stump, professor of Earth sciences and the Claude C. Albritton, Jr. Chair in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences. “His research was fundamental in creating the international monitoring network that enforces the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”

Herrin’s first breakthrough in experimental seismology occurred in 1963 when he determined that the earth’s mantle is not laterally homogeneous as previously thought. He won the Grove Karl Gilbert Award from the Geological Society of America for this contribution.