Aftershocks continue to shake British Columbia after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake that hit the area on Oct. 27, 2012.

Aftershocks continue to shake British Columbia after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake that hit the area on Oct. 27, 2012.

Aftershocks continue to shake coast of BC after 7.7-magnitude earthquake

After a massive 7.7-magnitude earthquake shook British Columbia Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, hundreds of aftershocks continue to rock the area, including one as strong as 6.4 in magnitude.

According to CTV News, the initial huge temblor was felt as far away as Edmonton, Alberta, where aftershocks were also felt Sunday.

The quake resulted in tsunami warnings issued for the Canadian coastline as well the coasts of Hawaii and California. Each of these was cancelled by Sunday.

There have been no reports of injuries or severe damage from the earthquake, however, some residents of BC experienced power outages, according to CTV.

BC Justice Minister Shirley Bond spoke to reporters Saturday night, telling them all in the area were “grateful” that little or no damage took place due to the tremor.

Although the quake was large, the Juan de Fuca plate that sits west of Vancouver Island is expected to produce a monumental shaker, which has taken place only once every 500 years. According to CTV, the last one was in Jan. 1700 when a 9.0-magnitude temblor struck the fault line

Take Thursday’s quake drill to heart

Originally published Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 8:12 PM

Thursday’s earthquake drill also serves as a reminder to make sure you have a healthy heart to deal with such an emergency.

Jerry Large

Seattle Times staff columnist


Good cardiovascular health would be good to have in any emergency.

I thought I’d add some health information to reminders about the danger of earthquakes.

This Thursday hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians (and millions nationwide) are participating in ShakeOut, which is all about earthquake awareness and preparation. Sooner or later a major earthquake is going to hit here, so it makes sense to be ready for it. And there is more to being ready than stockpiling water and securing bookcases to the wall.

After the big earthquake you’ll want to be fit so you can take care of yourself.

If you’ve watched any of the post-apocalyptic shows that fill TV these days (are we all worried about something?), you know that when the stuff happens, you want to be able to run, and climb and run some more.

Get healthy now and you’ll have an easier time of it later. Start by taking care of your fat cells by getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleep isn’t just about giving the brain a rest, or consolidating memories. Two professors from the University of Chicago led a study that found not getting enough high-quality sleep reduces the ability of fat cells to respond to insulin.

When that happens, fat that should stay inside the fat cells escapes into circulation where it can lead to weight gain, diabetes and other problems.

A person who gets around eight hours of good sleep a night should be fine. Four or five hours a night is definitely a problem.

Eating well and exercising are still important, and researchers keep refining their understanding of what works best.

I like to follow the latest, but I always keep in mind that recommendations can change. Remember when hydration was a craze? It doesn’t make sense to go overboard.

But maybe I’ll eat a few more tomatoes. A study in Finland found that eating tomatoes or tomato-based foods was associated with lower risk of stroke in more than 1,000 men studied. More research is needed to figure out exactly what is causing the lower risk.

A sure way to lower the risk of a stroke and reduce chances of developing heart disease is to get exercise. How often, how much and what kind is still being researched.

A Danish study based on 10,000 people who were monitored for up to 10 years found that intensity mattered more than the length of exercise.

The researchers were looking for ways to avoid metabolic syndrome, the cluster of factors that contribute to strokes and heart disease, such as a bulge in the belly and high blood pressure.

They found that fast walking and jogging cut the risk by 50 percent and 40 percent, respectively. I don’t know whether their findings will hold up, but it’s still true that overall, any activity is better than none.

What is increasingly clear is that sitting for long periods is very bad. Some recent studies reinforce that, including several that focus on children, especially those who spend hours in front of the television, or nestled with a computing device.

Most Americans need to move more, sleep more, eat less. I certainly do. One of the reasons I follow the studies is that I need constant reminders to do what’s best for my health. It helps me to do better today than yesterday.

Tending to our health has rewards beyond cleaner arteries. A study from the University of Warwick in Britain found the more helpings of fruit and veggies people ate, the greater their happiness and mental well-being.

Maybe they were happier because they knew they’d be able to outrun zombies.

Even if you or I beat the odds and don’t have to fend for ourselves in the aftermath of a big quake, we’ll feel better, and have more energy.

Fake quake set for Thursday; get real and don’t run

By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times science reporter

When the fake quake strikes Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m., what will you do?

Emergency managers hope none of these are on your list:

• Hunker in a doorway.

• Hop in the bathtub.

• Hustle outside.

But worst of all, they say, would be to ignore the biggest earthquake drill in U.S. history.

Nationwide, more than 13 million people have signed up to participate in Thursday’s 2012 Great ShakeOut, either on their own or through schools, businesses and community groups.

This year’s drill will mark the first time people along the entire West Coast of North America — from the tip of Alaska to the bottom of California — have simultaneously practiced diving for cover.

"It doesn’t have to be scary," said John Schelling, of the Washington Emergency Management Division. "It’s a great opportunity to get into our muscle memory to immediately get underneath something and protect our heads and necks."

In Washington, more than 600,000 people already have registered to take part. Schelling is optimistic the total will climb by Thursday. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get at least a million Washingtonians to raise their hands and say: ‘Yes, I want to practice earthquake safety.’ “

At the appointed hour, schoolchildren, university students, workers and others across the region will follow the mantra that most now know by heart: Duck, cover and hold on. This year, officials are asking participants to take at least one more step to better prepare themselves for the real thing.

It could be as simple as having a family discussion, or designating an emergency-contact family members can check in with if local phone connections are disrupted. Some businesses and schools plan full-scale evacuation drills. Homeowners might take advantage of the ShakeOut to finally store a few gallons of water in the basement or strap down the water heater.

"Start small," Schelling said. "Just do one thing … then build on that."

Employees at 73 REI stores across the country, including Seattle’s flagship location near downtown, will follow their earthquake drills with a huddle to discuss potential hazards and how to reduce them, said company spokeswoman Bethany Hawley. But shoppers won’t be pressed to duck and cover. The drills will be held before the stores open.

This year’s ShakeOut also will include sounding tsunami-warning sirens in coastal communities, where some groups will walk the route to high ground.

Japan’s disastrous 2011 earthquake and tsunami raised awareness in the Northwest, which is subject to the same type of one-two punch. The region also is riddled with shallow faults, including one that runs under Puget Sound, through Seattle and into the Cascade foothills. Future quakes could be much more destructive than the 2001 Nisqually quake, which had a magnitude of 6.8, but was blunted by the fact that it originated 30 miles underground.

"There’s a growing awareness that we’ve kind of gotten off easy in the short, historical time Westerners have been in the Pacific Northwest," said Bill Steele, of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington.

With so little firsthand experience of earthquakes, folks in Washington might be a little rusty on what to do when the ground starts shaking. Some might also be confused by contradictory advice offered on the Internet, Steele said.

A widely circulated email urges people to lie next to a heavy object, instead of seeking cover under a sturdy desk or table. The argument is that furniture will be crushed if a building collapses, whereas a small cavity may be created next to a heavy object. Experts, including the Red Cross, say that’s bad advice in the United States, where few buildings are likely to crumble.

The greatest hazard here is getting hit by falling objects — from bookshelves to light fixtures and shattered glass. That’s the same reason emergency managers advise people to stay indoors when a quake hits. “A common misconception a lot of folks have is that they should run outside,” Schelling said.

Another notion that’s proved hard to dispel is that doorways are the safest place to be. That might have been true decades ago for some types of buildings.

But in most modern structures, door frames are no stronger than the rest of the building. People who take shelter there often wind up getting injured as the doors swing wildly during the quake.

If there’s no handy desk or table to dive under, experts recommend simply crouching down and covering your head with your arms. If you’re in bed when the quake hits, stay there — unless a heavy light fixture is hanging over your head. Outdoors, move as far away from buildings, trees and power lines as possible and assume the position.

And the bathtub? Many people have survived tornadoes by taking shelter in a tub. But in an earthquake, Schelling said, you’re more likely to get injured running for the bathroom than simply staying put.

Deep 7.1 earthquake rattles Colombia; no reports of damage, injuries

Deep 7.1 earthquake rattles Colombia; no reports of damage, injuries

By Associated Press, Published: September 30 

BOGOTA, Colombia — A powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake centered nearly 100 miles underground rattled southwestern Colombia on Sunday but no damage or injuries were reported.

The quake struck at 11:31 a.m. local time 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the regional capital of Popayan and was felt in Bogota as well as 10 of Colombia’s 32 states. The U.S. Geological Survey said its epicenter was 94 miles (150 kilometers) beneath the earth’s surface.

The quake was the most powerful to hit Colombia since a 7.2-magnitude temblor shook the same region in 2004, said Patricia Pedraza of Colombia’s geological service.

Security chief Edith Cabeza of Cauca state, of which Popayan is the capital, said the “white city” of 270,000 inhabitants suffered no damage.

Popayan’s historical center was largely reconstructed after a March 1983 quake that killed at least 250 people.

The earthquake that struck Sumatra was a big one. Here’s how it compares to some record holders.

The earthquake that struck Sumatra was a big one. Here’s how it compares to some record holders.


Bizarre 2012 earthquake signals birth of world’s newest tectonic plate

After millions more years of similar earthquakes, the ruptures will begin to favor a particular path, giving rise to a new plate boundary, and separating today’s existing plate into two.

By Andrea Mustain, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer / September 27, 2012 

On the afternoon of April 11, 2012, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded — and now revealed to be among the weirdest — struck in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Sumatra. It’s a region all too familiar with geological catastrophe.

Eight years earlier, in December 2004, the third largest earthquake on record had ripped through a nearby region of the ocean floor. The magnitude-9.1 earthquake and the monstrous tsunami that soon followed killed more than 227,000 people in 14 countries,

So when a magnitude-8.7 earthquake (some put the magnitude at 8.6) shook the Indonesian island on that Wednesday afternoon earlier this year, many expected the worst. Yet, no monster wave appeared. A wave did come ashore, but it was a miniature tsunami, just 12 inches (31 centimeters) high.

All told, the earthquake did very little damage — yet only five higher earthquake magnitudes have ever been recorded. So what was the deal? [Video: What Earthquake ‘Magnitude’ Means?]

New research published today (Sept. 26) in the journal Nature delves into the intimate details of this earthquake, along with the powerful, magnitude-8.2 quake that followed two hours later. The new studies add to an existing body of research that shows this was a remarkable event — one of the most surprising earthquakes ever recorded — and one that offers an unlikely snapshot of a geological process millions of years in the making.

Turning a corner

Data captured by a global network of seismometers on April 11 revealed almost immediately that this quake was a strike-slip earthquake — the sort that races along the San Andreas Fault. Strike-slip earthquakes occur when two sides of a fault jolt horizontally, displacing the ground sideways. Since these earthquakes don’t shove the ocean floor upward — a required move for tsunami generation — no deadly wave appeared. [April 2012 Sumatra Quake (Infographic)]

Tsunamis are typically the devastating handiwork of quakes known as subduction earthquakes. They’re the most powerful earthquakes on the planet, and they occur at plate boundaries, where one tectonic plate is grinding inexorably beneath another. When the bottom plate suddenly lurches deeper, a colossal amount of energy is released, unleashing the sorts of massive earthquakes and calamitous tsunamis that hit the Indian Ocean in 2004 and the coast of Japan in March 2011. [7 Craziest Ways Japan’s Earthquake Affected Earth]

It quickly became apparent that the April 11 earthquake was the most powerful strike-slip quake ever recorded. Which was strange.

Not only was the quake of unparalleled power, it hit in the middle of a tectonic plate, not at a plate boundary, like the San Andreas Fault. “So already it has two unusual attributes,” said Thorne Lay, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an author on one of the papers published today.

Lay and his team set out to construct a blow-by-blow account of how the earthquake progressed, and what they found added to the quake’s mystique. This earthquake was able to turn corners.

"It’s totally unusual," Lay told OurAmazingPlanet. It turns out that the quake began on one fault, streaking along at more than a mile per second, and, when it reached an intersecting fault, it ruptured that one, too. In all, it ruptured four different faults over the course of 150 seconds, unleashing an amount of energy equivalent to about four magnitude-8.0 earthquakes.

Lay said that, typically, when earthquakes spread to connecting faults, the rupture rips along faults that branch away from the initial fault like the branches of a river. These earthquakes raced along in a grid-like pattern, making 90-degree turns along faults that resemble a lattice.

"Here, they really do seem to go along perpendicular faults, and we haven’t seen anything like that with a big earthquake," he said.

However, he said, the weird rupture pattern reflects the weird geological circumstances at play in the neighborhood where the earthquake hit. The April 11 earthquake occurred in a region that is giving birth to the Earth’s newest tectonic plate.

Birth pangs

The earthquake hit in the middle of the Indo-Australian plate, a plate that is being torn asunder. And in fact, it is this process that helped trigger this astonishingly powerful earthquake. In a way, the area where it hit was primed for a major earthquake — scientists just had no idea how major such an earthquake could be.

"It’s a pre-existing zone of weakness," said Matthias Delescluse, a marine geophysicist at Paris’s Ecole Normale Supérieure and an author of another Nature paper on the earthquake published today.

The faults that the earthquake ruptured are, essentially, the bones of an ancient volcanic seam that once snaked across the ocean floor, giving rise to new crust. The system fell silent 45 million years ago, but the fractures it created in the tectonic plate are still there.

And this particular tectonic plate is undergoing some major stress, Delescluse told OurAmazingPlanet. “I like to represent it with the sidecar analogy,” he said. Think of the Australia region of the plate as a motorbike, and the India region as a sidecar. Both are hurtling northward at a fast clip — for a tectonic plate at least — at about 2 inches (5 cm) per year.

"Now imagine the sidecar — not the motorbike — runs into a wall," Delescluse said. "The sidecar would compress, and the motor bike, depending on the violence of the shock, would finally detach from the sidecar."

That wall that our India sidecar is hitting is the Eurasian plate. The colossal collision has produced some impressive side effects: the Himalayas, the highest mountains on Earth. Australia is able to continue its progress largely unhindered, because that portion of the plate is diving under another tectonic plate — a process that produces the sort of massive earthquake that hit in 2004.

The evidence suggests that the Indo-Australian plate began to be ripped apart between 8 million and 10 million years ago. The 2012 earthquake is just one of many that have likely ripped along the same region since this process began.

After millions more years of similar earthquakes, the ruptures will begin to favor a particular path, giving rise to a new plate boundary, and separating today’s existing plate into two.

Delescluse said that the singular earthquake measured in 2012 offers a glimpse of this process in unprecedented detail.

"This event is really illustrating what happened in the past and will happen in the future," he said.

Because the continental plates are built differently than oceanic plates, which are far more brittle, it’s unlikely that such a colossal strike-slip quake could hit on land, Delescluse said.

Rare event?

A third paper published today shows that the April 11 earthquake likely triggered earthquakes around the world for a short time afterward.

Together, the papers offer an unprecedented look at the geological setup for the earthquake, how it unfolded second by second, and its aftermath.

"The fact that within six months we have understood this much — that is really quite impressive," said Hiroo Kanamori, a professor emeritus at Caltech, and a revered figure among geophysicists. He was not involved in the research.

Kanamori, who has studied large earthquakes for decades, said that vast improvements in both the quality and quantity of instruments, and of methodology, has allowed the science to make unprecedented strides forward.

"If this had happened 40 years ago, it would have taken a few years to even understand what it was," he told OurAmazingPlanet.

And although he said the event certainly was surprising, he noted that it’s only surprising from the perspective of a human lifetime — “not on the geological time scale,” he said.

Lay echoed Kanamori’s long-term perspective.

"When you’re dealing with a process that may be taking millions of years, we’re getting a very short window of observation from which to make generalizations about the past," he said. "Astronomers can look farther away, and they can see farther back in time — we see what we see today," he said. And the Earth may have more geological surprises in store, he said.

Powerful quake hits Costa Rica, two dead

By Isabella Cota

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake rocked Costa Rica on Wednesday, causing the deaths of at least two people, damaging buildings, and briefly triggering a tsunami warning.

Residents of the capital San Jose said phones went down, electricity poles rattled on the streets and water flowed out of pools after the 7.6-magnitude quake. The were also unconfirmed media reports of people being treated for injuries.

A spokesman for the local Red Cross said two people died during the earthquake, one from a heart attack. He was not immediately able to confirm media reports the other person had been crushed under a collapsing wall.

Locals were shocked by the force of the quake, the biggest to hit Costa Rica since a 7.6 magnitude quake in 1991 left 47 dead.

"I was inside my car at a stop sign and all the sudden everything started shaking. I thought the street was going to break in two," said Erich Johanning, a 30-year-old who works in Internet marketing in San Jose. "Immediately I saw dozens of people running out of their homes and office buildings."

President Laura Chinchilla said there had not been reports of serious damage to buildings, although some hotels on the western Pacific coast had been hit, locals said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially issued a warning for Pacific coastlines of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama, but this was later canceled. The center had earlier warned of tsunamis for as far afield as Mexico and Peru.

The quake’s epicenter was in western Costa Rica about 87 miles (140 km) from San Jose, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, and it was felt as far away as Nicaragua and Panama.

The Guanacaste region around the epicenter is known for its beaches, surf and volcanoes. With several nature and marine reserves it is less tropical than the rest of the Central American nation, with stretches of open savannah and mountains.

In the town of Nicoya, some 11 km (7 miles) east-southeast of the epicenter, Selenia Obando, a receptionist at the Hotel Curime, said the building had been left without lights and electricity. A floor had collapsed in the hotel but there were no injuries.

"It was horrible, like being in a blender going round and round," Obando said. "All the water sloshed out of the swimming pool. It’s now about half full."

There was also an early report of damage to the Hotel Riu Guanacaste on Matapalo beach in Guanacaste.

But America Nava, a reservations clerk with Riu in Mexico, said it had only been evacuated. “There is no damage to the hotel, they’re checking it to make sure everything is in order. As soon as that is finished, the guests will return.”

Local media reported the death of a woman from a heart attack at the time of the earthquake in a nearby hospital.

Actor Mel Gibson owns a lush forest retreat at Playa Barrigona in Samara not far from the epicenter, which he recently put up for sale for $29.75 million. Guests to the 500 acre property have included Bruce Willis and Britney Spears.

The last serious quake to hit Costa Rica was a 6.1 magnitude quake in January 2009, which killed 40 people.

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

A massive earthquake like the one that unleashed a giant tsunami and killed nearly 16,000 people in Japan a year ago not only could happen here in the U.S., but probably will — and relatively soon in terms of seismological history.

While most Americans probably think the San Andreas fault running through California poses the greatest threat of unleashing a killer mega-quake, data from the Japanese quake indicate that the distinction actually belongs to the Cascadia fault line, which runs through southern Canada, Washington and Oregon to Northern California, Anderson said at the conference.

Biggest threat zones
The biggest threats of a U.S. mega-quake (generally defined as one of magnitude 7.0 or greater) lie along three fault lines:
The Cascadia subduction zone stretches from northern Vancouver Island through Seattle and Portland, Ore., to Northern California, separating the Juan de Fuca and North America plates. Giant quakes are believed to occur there every 300 to 600 years; the last was Jan. 26, 1700. Recent research suggests the region could have a 37 percent chance of a magnitude-8.2 quake or greater in the next 50 years.
The San Andreas transform fault runs the length of California, separating the Pacific and North American plates. The last mega-quake was in 1906 near San Francisco, but large earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or above are relatively common in historical terms, having occurred as recently as September 2004 near Parkfield.
The New Madrid seismic zone stretches southwest from New Madrid, Mo. (pronounced MAD-rid), and is most active in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, where it regularly produces small- to medium-intensity temblors. Three magnitude-8.0 quakes are believed to have occurred in the region from December 1811 to February 1812; had Memphis, Tenn., existed at the time, it likely would have been destroyed. Since then, the largest earthquake was a magnitude-6.6 quake in October 1895 near Charleston, Mo.

Earthquake Swarm Puts California Town on Edge

By Associated Press | August 27, 2012 | +

(BRAWLEY, Calif.) — A series of small to moderate earthquakes that shattered windows and knocked trailer homes off their foundations is putting people in this small farming town east of San Diego on edge as they continue to feel jolts that scientists said could last for days.

The largest quake, registered at a magnitude 5.5, struck at 1:57 p.m. Sunday and was centered about three miles northwest of Brawley, said Robert Graves, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Another quake about an hour and a half earlier registered at magnitude 5.3.

No injuries were reported.

Several dozen earthquakes with magnitudes of at least 3.5 shook the same area near the southern end of the Salton Sea, Graves said.

By dawn Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey website showed there had been dozens of aftershocks in Imperial County, the largest a magniutude-4.9 at 9:41 p.m. Sunday. There was also a 3.0 at 12:32 a.m. Monday.

“The type of activity that we’re seeing could possibly continue for several hours or even days,” Graves said.

The quakes pushed 20 mobile homes at a trailer park off their foundations and rendered them inhabitable, said Maria Peinado, a spokeswoman for the Imperial County Emergency Operations Center. A red-tiled roof apparently collapsed and landed on a wooden fence.

Sporadic power outages, at one point affecting 2,500 Imperial Irrigation District customers, also prompted authorities to evacuate 49 patients from one of the county’s two hospitals, Peinado said. Police also received numerous calls about gas leaks and water line breaks.

“It’s not uncommon for us to have earthquakes out here, but at this frequency and at this magnitude it’s fairly unusual,” said George Nava, the mayor of Brawley, a town of 25,000.

“And the fact that the aftershocks keep coming are a little alarming,” he said.

At the El Sol Market, food packages fell from shelves and littered the aisles.

“It felt like there was quake every 15 minutes. One after another. My kids are small and they’re scared and don’t want to come back inside,” said Mike Patel, who manages Townhouse Inn & Suites.

A TV came crashing down and a few light fixtures broke inside the motel, Patel said.

The first quake, with a magnitude of 3.9, occurred at 10:02 a.m. The USGS said more than 300 aftershocks struck the same approximate epicenter.

Some shaking was felt along the San Diego County coast in Del Mar, some 120 miles from the epicenter, as well as in southwestern Arizona and parts of northern Mexico.

USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said earthquake swarms are characteristic of the region, known as the Brawley Seismic Zone.

“The area sees lots of events at once, with many close to the largest magnitude, rather than one main shock with several much smaller aftershocks,” Jones said.

The last major swarm was in 2005, following a magnitude-5.1 quake, she said.

Sunday’s quake cluster occurred in what scientists call a transition zone between the Imperial and San Andreas faults, so they weren’t assigning the earthquakes to either fault, Graves said.