Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shaking Up Those Earthquake Myths!

You may or may not know that the Militant loves to dispel myths and debunk stereotypes. Well, Tuesday's little E ticket ride (Wiki it, kids...) brought out the same tired old non-truths about earthquakes from people with no prior experience in seismic activity who think they know more about seismology than Dr. Lucy Freaking Jones. It boggles the mind, folks...

So here's a bunch of myths, mis-truths and just plain bad knowledge cleared up once and for all by the Militant:

"Los Angeles is 'Earthquake Country.'" Well, you can't deny that quakes happen here. But sorry to break this to you: earthquakes happen in other cities as well. You might have heard of San Francisco? Quakes happen in the Pacific Northwest as well, and one of the largest earthquakes in U.S. history originated not in the west coast but in the Midwest: The 8.0 New Madrid quake in 1812 centered in what is now Missouri, not only changed the course of the Mississippi River, but reportedly rang church bells in Boston and was felt as far away as Maine. Nonsense? Look at this map comparing the damage range of our 1994 6.7 Northridge Earthquake with a 6.8 New Madrid quake in 1895. Where's your "Earthquake Country" now?

The East Coast is not totally immune to earthquakes, either. Though not as seismically active, they do happen, mainly due to the crust re-settling after the Ice Age. Earthquakes are also a reality in Asia, Africa, southern Europe and South America. In fact, 2/3 of the world's population lives in an earthquake-prone zone. "Earthquake Country," you say? More like Earthquake Planet.

"Ack! I don't wanna fall through a hole in the ground!" Um, no. Though surface fissures occur, not only are most of them not large enough for a human being to fall into, but most of them are in the immediate area of the epicenter, and most epicenters are located in mountainous or rural areas, you probably have a greater chance of getting in a car accident. As you're getting hit by lightning. On the day you win the Lottery. Many deaths or injuries from earthquakes come from falling objects or structures, but when was the last time you heard of someone falling into a ground fissure? NEXT!

"Must Be Earthquake Weather..." The belief that weather somehow directly influences earthquakes didn't even originate in Southern California. In 4 B.C. Greek philosopher Aristotle theorized that earthquakes (yes, they happen in Greece, too), were caused by winds trapped in underground caves. Modern scientists have since learned that quakes happen far beneath the surface. Tuesday's tremor originated some seven miles (36,960 feet) below the earth's surface. The temperature down there isn't affected by what's on the ground level. Besides, the weather in Tuesday wasn't that much different than Monday. Where was the quake on Monday? It was even hotter in previous days, where was the earthquake then? Weather has no proven direct effect on earthquakes.

"I Don't Want To Be In The Red Line When An Earthquake Hits." Actually, you should. Our subway tunnels and stations, built at least 60 feet below street level, were constructed to move with the earth (by comparison, New York's subway tunnels, most of which are immediately below street level, would actually be unsafe places during an earthquake in NYC (which is always a scientific possibility), and will cause the streets to collapse, making the entire city un-navigable). Would you rather be on a freeway overpass (or under one?) Didn't think so. Being deeper in the ground has its advantages, as all seismologists know that seismic waves are released and more amplified on the surface, whereas underground, they just pass through.

Many people complain about our Metro system being built too little, too late, but the "too late" part does have its advantages, as its design incorporates decades worth of seismic-resistant engineering learned from experience in other subway systems in seismic-prone areas. Speaking of which, after their respective large quakes in 1985 and 1989, Mexico City's and San Francisco's subway systems survived intact, and were the only reliable means of transportation following the quake.

BTW, the Red Line got through Tuesday's quake just fine, as it did in the Northridge quake back in '94.

"California Will Fall Into The Sea." Ah, the stuff of movies, and every East Coaster's wet dream. This has got to be the Militant's favorite one. The Militant will admit this is based on partial truth. Yes, California will "fall into the sea" one day, as the portion of the state that lies on the Pacific Plate will subduct into the ocean off of Alaska. But it will NOT happen as a single cataclysmic event, but rather a long-ass process that will take at least 50 million years. During that time, Los Angeles is expected to be twin cities with San Francisco, and though that would make the baseball rivalries rather interesting, that won't happen for another 26 million years. To put it into perspective, human beings have only been around for some 250,000 years.

Furthermore, parts of California are even below sea level so how can it even "fall into" the ocean? Pttth. Idiots. So, sorry envious, wishful-thinking East Coasters, ain't gonna happen!

Besides, and this is the most important part -- there has never been any historical precedent of an entire surface land mass "falling into the sea" in a single, cataclysmic incident. And if it ever did happen, if you think it's gonna suck for us, think of the folks on the other side of the ocean who would get the one big mother of a tsunami. Remember, far more people died and were impacted in the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami than the 9.0 Banda Aceh, Indonesia quake that triggered it.

So please, stop this utter ignorance. The next person that says the "Fall into the sea" thing is gonna get a sock in the face from the Militant's fist. Seriously.

Of course, the Militant's not going to complain AT ALL if there's a wave of transplants that do decide to flee after this quake, or any quake. It's just gonna make the housing market all the more affordable!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on the Metro. Being down there during a quake has always been one of my (many) fears. Guess I can ride a little bit easier now :)

The Hollywood Jedi said...

You wanna talk earthquakes, you forgot the biggest earthquake of all time.

and.... how big would you say this was on the Imperial Quake Scale?

Miles said...

Eh, I dunno. Just before Northridge, there were really strange winds...and to this day, I swear they were screaming "earthquake weather".

chicanaskies said...

Miles: I think you're allowed to be superstitious every now and again! :)

jeffro said...

"there has never been any historical precedent of an entire surface land mass "falling into the sea" in a single, cataclysmic incident"

You've never heard of Atlantis?

Militant Angeleno said...

Jeffro: Atlantis is generally folkloric in origin, passed on by various cultures. And even the exact location of Atlantis has never been identified (Kind of like the Militant's compound...)

Viagra Online said...

I hate the earthquake, specially when you're working, you mustn't forget this advise: don't run like a insane guy, the only thing you need is experience with the seismic activity and then be patient in the moment.

Cody said...

"Where's your "Earthquake Country" now?"

This is like someone calling New Orleans hurricane country, and you reminding them that hurricanes happen elsewhere. This is just like someone mentioning Mount Etna and realizing there's other volcanoes elsewhere.

In other words, it's rather ignorant logic (logic, what?), at best. There's what, over 100 fault lines in the LA area, and earthquakes happen a lot in LA (just one today which is related to why I saw this page). Just because someone calls it Earthquake Country does not mean they're saying it only happens there or they're somehow more important. I mean only someone who is insecure or has some other issue going on, would even have to bring it up. Of course earthquakes happen elsewhere! Look up the etymology of earthquake, even. Look up earthquake in general. It's pretty obvious and it's only a figure of speech.

What a joke. And as for the rest of your remarks. There's some things we cannot explain. Something comes to mind: premonitions. They happen whether anyone can prove it or not, the sense is still there. So, while there may not be "earthquake weather" that does not mean there's not senses out there, say the next item. Animals are often very edgy before quakes. You can't prove it was related, but you can't prove it was not. In other words, some things are simply impossible to explain. That does not mean they don't happen. If that were the case, the Earth wouldn't exist, as we can't prove one way or another what really happened.

Also, as for earth swallowing someone. That's up to interpretation and to deny that is pretty much playing the game of semantics. Someone could realistically fall through or get killed in cracks, whether they went to the middle of the earth or not (I don't think anyone said that THAT happened anyway). And that - falling in cracks and dying - could happen during a quake - or not.

And I too find it pretty funny you forgot or neglected to mention the biggest earthquake ever.