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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Real Life Horror Story for Northwesterners

Posted by on Wed, May 29, 2013 at 7:46 AM

Over the weekend, I stayed up late and read a horror story. I'm pretty sure it gave me nightmares. But it wasn't suspenseful or gory or even fictional in nature—it was geological. Sandi Doughton, science writer for the Seattle Times, has just published a book titled Full Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. The book tries to be a few different narratives at once: A brief history of geological study in Seattle; an explanation of all the circumstances that make the Northwest unique, earthquake-wise; and a short guidebook explaining what to do if the Big One hits.

Full Rip is packed with all sorts of trivia about the land around us. Here's my favorite new piece of local trivia, about

9781570617898.jpg
...an abrupt change in gravity measurements along a line that slices from Hood Canal through south Seattle. North of the line are lighter, sedimentary rocks. To the south, the rocks are dense and heavy. A 150-pound person loses about two-tenths of an ounce traveling north from Sea-Tac Airport to the University of Washington because of the difference in gravity pull.

The gravity gradient is one of the sharpest ever detected in the United States.

Doughton looks at the many different kinds of earthquakes that can strike here—deep quakes, shallow quakes, quakes on many different kinds of faults—and explains how common they are. Some experts theorize that we're not "due" for an enormous earthquake anytime soon. Others say we're 80 percent likely to see another deep quake in the next fifty years. Some other experts say that we're not likely to see a deep quake that's stronger than the low 7s in the Richter scale (although Doughton explains that the Richter scale is a terrible way to convey the power of an earthquake to the general public) and others disagree about that opinion, too. Basically, much of the book consists of a lot of smart people admitting that they know very little about earthquakes.

Full Rip is a short, alarming read. Not all of Doughton's prose makes for compelling reading—a few parts, surprisingly, are downright boring—but the subject carries more than enough natural interest for Seattle residents that they'll paw through this book feverishly. Doughton doesn't provide much consolation—Washington State government keeps dropping the ball on earthquake preparedness—but what little solace she does provide her readers, in terms of earthquake preparedness tips, seem very practical. They're not enough to soothe a reader's rattled nerves, but they're enough to keep the book from closing on a disaster-porn note. Most good horror stories, after all, end on a positive note, even if the positivity is a false consolation.

 

Comments (15) RSS

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1
We're number 4 in the Ring of Fire which has seen big earthquakes in western South America, then New Zealand and then Japan over the last 2 or 3 years. Lots of activity off the coast of Oregon.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 29, 2013 at 7:54 AM · Report this
fletc3her 2
I wonder how bridges built ten years prior to the 1965 quake will fare in a strong earthquake.

According to the DOT there are 914 bridges which need to be retrofitted in this state. 278 have been completely retrofitted. 496 are on the waiting list. And the rest are in progress.
Posted by fletc3her on May 29, 2013 at 8:39 AM · Report this
3
Most bridges will be unusable. The passes may be closed by rockfall. I'm not engaging in hyperbole when I say that after a subduction zone quake, the PNW may be cut off from basic help like food and clean water for weeks. We were not prepared, and people will die for that reason.
Posted by Geologist in training on May 29, 2013 at 9:02 AM · Report this
4
but homosexual "marriage".

right?

Right?!......
Posted by nothing else really matters, does it? on May 29, 2013 at 9:03 AM · Report this
yelahneb 5
Wow, that book cover just screams "thoughtful, sober inquiry".
Posted by yelahneb http://www.strangebutharmless.com on May 29, 2013 at 9:40 AM · Report this
Womyn2me 6
so no electronic version of the book? Wait, you read an advanced copy? do not review a book I cannot go buy, that's not fair.

will you loan me your advanced copy in apology? I will bop up to Capitol Hill for it. Cause the damn thing doesnt come out for a whole 2 weeks or so. Unacceptable .
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\www.shelleyandlaura.com on May 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM · Report this
7
So what does the gravity gradient have to do with earthquakes?
Posted by Not a science geek on May 29, 2013 at 10:07 AM · Report this
8
WE'RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIIE!!!!!!!
Posted by Totalpukoid on May 29, 2013 at 10:56 AM · Report this
Zebes 9
The Richter scale is terrible? Hmm. May I propose the Panic Scale? The power of earthquakes will be measured in Notifbutwhens.

THE BIG ONE that is going to level Seattle and collapse the viaduct and liquify the waterfront? Definitely, like, 12.4 Notifbutwhens.
Posted by Zebes http://www.badrap.org/rescue/index.html on May 29, 2013 at 10:57 AM · Report this
venomlash 10
@7: A sharp change in local gravity anomaly indicates that there's some boundary between geological units.
Posted by venomlash on May 29, 2013 at 11:34 AM · Report this
11
@7: The sharp change has been explained as the fault offset of the seattle (and tacoma) fault zones bring bedrock nearer to the surface on one side of the fault and further from the surface on the other side of the fault.
Posted by Geologist in training on May 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 12
Geez, I really gotta refresh the supplies in the earthquake kit...

(he said for the 17th month in a row)
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on May 29, 2013 at 12:33 PM · Report this
Dougsf 13
Seriously, they gotta do something about how they convey the strength of an earthquake to use pleebs. I know we don't use Richter any more, but the Magnitude scale is just as obtuse. A 5.0 is 10x stronger than a 4.0, but has 30x the energy? Sure. Ok. How about on a scale from 1-100, with 100 being the worst shit imaginable, how earthquaky was it?

While we're at it scientist—110% humidity? Really? Did old hydrometers only go up 90 or some shit?

What say you, science?!
Posted by Dougsf on May 29, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Report this
zivilisierter Wurm 14
@13: Or we could teach logarithmic scales in school.
Posted by zivilisierter Wurm http://peregrinari.tumblr.com/ on May 29, 2013 at 2:08 PM · Report this
Posted by OnceAndAgain on May 29, 2013 at 3:12 PM · Report this

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