Posts in the category »  Earthquake «  ( 123 Posts )

  • Earthquakes and dust clouds

    Today’s post of the Landslide Blog about a rockfall caused by a volcanic earthquake reminds me about something that’s in my mind for years already. Could we use dust deposits as a paleoseismological archive? Dust clouds of all sizes, ranging from tiny to huge, can be associated with seismic shaking, especially in arid and mountainous regions. Here I have collected a few videos I found on YouTube. When large amounts of dust settle they should form a distinctive layer recognizable in the sedimentary record, comparable to volcanic ash deposits. Of course they will be harder to be identified, since the material is the local one. I guess this could be done, similar to turbidites in marine paleoseismology. There are papers that describe changes in the aerosol content in the atmosphere after earthquakes, so why not look for them on earth? more

  • Small tsunami hits Solomon coast – M8 earthquake and fifty aftershocks

    In the last twelve hours, a series of major earthquakes struck the Santa Cruz Islands. Beginning with the activation of a thrust fault with a M8.0 (M7.9) earthquake, almost fifty aftershocks hit the region. A regional tsunami warning was released short six minutes after the first quake at 1:12 UTC and has now been cancelled.


  • Earthquakes in Austria/Slovenia and Japan

    On 2 Februar, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake occurred in shallow depth (~2-7 km) directly at the border between Austria and Slovenia. USGS reports an oblique-slip focal mechanism and a magnitude of Mw4.0 only. According to the Austrian Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik the quake was felt widely and even in Vienna. Very light damage has been reported from the epicentral area. more

  • Earthquakes and Late Bronze Age collapse: the end of an old myth?

    The collapse of Bronze Age civilizations c.1200 BC remains a persistent riddle in Eastern Mediterranean archaeology. Earthquakes, attacks of the Sea Peoples, climatic deterioration, and socio-political unrest are among the most frequently suggested causes for this phenomenon. In the last issue of Seismological Research Letters (January/February 2013), Manuel Sintubin and myself attempt to retrace the origins of the idea according to which earthquakes may have caused the demise of Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean societies. The article features reproductions of unpublished archival documents held by the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (Nicosia). The free-access version of the paper can be found here. Happy reading!


  • The 10 strongest earthquakes 2012

    Last year we’ve seen some surprising seismic events. Do you remember the two strange events of M8.6 and M8.2 off Sumatra? We didn’t even know that such strong strike-slip events were possible, and those two earthquakes ruptured in a weird rectangular pattern AND occured within few minutes of each other. Do you remember the third most powerful EQ that rattled the Okhotsk Sea? No? Well, I think it’s a good idea to have a look at the strongest events that happened last year.  more

  • Earthquake prediction – some thoughts and four interviews

    Since the L’Aquila trial has caused a lot of attention and an outcry of the scientific community, topics like earthquake prediction and earthquake forecasting are widely discussed in blogs and media. Often enough, people that claim to be scientists pretend they could predict earthquakes. These pseudo-predictions are based either on measuring geophysical phenomena (like temperature, gas emissions, electromagnetic fields, light phenomena, sun-moon-earth tidal forces and interactions etc.), animal behaviour (toads, snakes, dogs etc.) or even crazier things (horoscopes, blasphemy, earthquake weapons…). None of these “methods” works. Earthquake prediction is currently not possible. more

  • Catch 22

    In the wake of the verdict in the L’Aquila earthquake trial big words were not spared. Is this a “battle between science and politics”? Is the decision taken “more reminiscent of Dark Ages magical thinking than modern scientific understanding”? Is this trial “likened to persecution of Galileo”? In reaction to the verdict, a common tendency in the earth science and risk community seems to move towards a ‘withdrawal’ from our commitment to society. But is this the right thing to do?

    This short-sighted verdict may indeed very well alienate society’s strongest ally when it comes to safeguarding society against potential dramatic consequences of earthquakes. But is society helped when scientists systematically overexaggerate the potential hazard to cover themselves against possible legal consequences? Such attitude would completely erode the credibility of science. And when a hazard becomes really serious, society will turn a deaf ear to the advice of the scientists. Society isn’t helped either when scientists withdraw in their academic ‘ivory towers’ and completely ignore their societal role. This would only give ‘charlatans’ carte blanche to preach doom.

    Eventually, scientists do not have a choice! Scientists have to stick to their responsibility towards society. In risk communication they will have to be as clear and honest as possible, but without devaluing the nuance inherent to science. Scientists have to keep confronting authorities that run away from their responsibilities. And scientists will have to keep investing in an ‘informed citizenry’, to provide them all necessary tools to become aware and resilient with respect to the inevitable earthquake. But at the end, scientists should be able to say and write freely and unconditionally wherever their science leads them!


  • Man-made earthquakes and science communication

    Two papers on man-made earthquakes have been published last week and both have had received media coverage. Especially now, few days after the L’Aquila trial, the public is interested in any earthquake story and so the new findings that severe earthquakes happened due to human action caused some attention. Additionally, it caused me a headache and triggered not an earthquake, but a feeling of anger. Let’s talk about some good examples for bad science communication. more

  • What’s up? The Friday links (46)

    For me the most important geo news this week was the court decision on the L’Aquila trial on Monday. A local court sentenced six scientists and one official for manslaughter to six years in prison – 2 years more than claimed by the prosecutor. Even though the scientists may not have found the best words to describe the earthquake hazard in L’Aquila, the decision is ridiculous in my opinion and caused an outcry throughout the scientific community. Especially the consequences for any risk assessment and public information might be fatal. I am really concerned. In the following I link to some blog posts that I found particularly interesting:


  • L’Aquila trial: Italian scientists guilty of manslaughter – up to six years in prison

    Breaking news are sad ones for the earthquake community. A court in Italy found seven scientists guilty of manslaughter in multiple cases and sentenced them to prison. The scientists had to give a statement about the likelyhood of a major quake after a series of tremors occurred in L’Aquila. They stated that there was no higher risk for a forthcoming major event; few days later a M6.3 earthquake devastated the historical city and more than 300 people died.

    The scientific community tried to support the italian scientists by clarifying that earthquake prediction is still impossible. Also, more than 5000 scientists signed an open letter in support of the Italian colleagues. This is surely a sad day for earthquake geology and I am sure it will change the way we communicate our findings to the public and to officials.