Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feeling the earth move

It has come to my attention that some people in, say, California, are rather bemused by all the excitement generated by Great Earthquake of 2011. They seem to feel that Southern California has some sort of "in" in the great seismic sweepstakes and that Easterners are all a bunch of clueless, chickenshit wimps screaming that the sky is falling.

I hate to piss on their smugfest but I feel compelled to disabuse them of that assumption. The fabled "Big One" isn't going to be in SoCA, although the one there will be bad enough. The horror scenario that's been predicted for SoCA pales in comparison to what's going to happen someday in the East:
"It is easier to speculate on the effects that an earthquake the size of the 1811-12 series [New Madrid, MO] would have if it were to occur today than it is to predict when it will happen. In the epicentral area, a repeat of the kind of surficial damage experienced in 1811-12 can expected. However, this would result in a much greater loss of life and property today because of the much larger number of people and man-made structures in the region than were there 162 years ago [writing in 1974]. Even more awesome is the size of the area that would be affected. The dispersion of the surface waves, combined with their low attenuation, would result in a large amplitude, long duration sinusoidal type of motion with periods in the same range as the natural periods of tall buildings. Although damage to buildings located outside of the immediate earthquake zone would be mostly nonstructural in character, the monetary amount should be expected to be very large. The emotional and psychological effects of a large earthquake in the central part of the country would probably also be considerable, particularly if the earthquake had a long aftershock pattern as the 1811-12 sequence did."
Let's compare San Francisco in 1906 to the 1895 earthquake:

My zone is bigger than your zone
That's more "awesome" all right. And the New Madrid quake of 1812 was significantly bigger than the 6.8 one in 1895. It was felt in Ontario. Imagine that happening today. Someday it will. And here's why it will be worse:
"The large difference in felt areas between the Mississippi Valley and San Francisco earthquakes, which had approximately the same magnitude and focal depth, can be explained by differences in attenuation of earthquake waves traveling through the Earth's outer crust. The crust in the Western United States tends to ``soak up'' earthquake energy, whereas in the central and eastern regions of the country the seismic energy experiences a much lower rate of absorption. Quantitative studies of recent earthquakes confirm this explanation."

Sorry SoCA, you're in second place, bitches. We're more doomed than you are. You've actually gone and built shit to withstand earthquakes. There's nothing like that 'round here. Of course you'll all probably die of thirst after your out-of-state water supplies stop working. I can't begin to imagine how much bling will get scuffed. I'm sure the looting on Rodeo Drive will be epic. It'll all make for some great television. I'm sure CNN's ratings will bury that clusterfuck at FNC.

And then, of course, there's all those other "Bob"-forsaken places all over the planet that are vastly more fucked than we are...
"One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us."—Kurt Vonnegut
I'll tell you what... you can have the next terrorist attack, how about that? Are we even now?

You still couldn't pay me to live in SoCA.

(Sorry if this post isn't up to my usual high standards of accuracy and invective. I'm kind-of out of it lately.)

No comments: