Category Archives: Earthquakes and Natural Disasters

Nepal Quake 2015

Powerful quake struck the capital of Nepal yesterday – as of this writing, it’s a m7.8 and so far they are reporting 3,000+ people have perished so far, including people trapped in an avalanche on Mt Everest and people crushed in the Dharahara that crumbled as they were visiting the World Heritage site.

From the USGS:

The April 25, 2015 M 7.8 Nepal earthquake occurred as the result of thrust faulting on or near the main frontal thrust between the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north. At the location of this earthquake, approximately 80 km to the northwest of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, the India plate is converging with Eurasia at a rate of 45 mm/yr towards the north-northeast, driving the uplift of the Himalayan mountain range. The preliminary location, size and focal mechanism of the April 25 earthquake are consistent with its occurrence on the main subduction thrust interface between the India and Eurasia plates.

Although a major plate boundary with a history of large-to-great sized earthquakes, large earthquakes on the Himalayan thrust are rare in the documented historical era. Just four events of M6 or larger have occurred within 250 km of the April 25, 2015 earthquake over the past century. One, a M 6.9 earthquake in August 1988, 240 km to the southeast of the April 25 event, caused close to 1500 fatalities. The largest, an M 8.0 event known as the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake, occurred in a similar location to the 1988 event. It severely damaged Kathmandu, and is thought to have caused around 10,600 fatalities.

Alan Taylor at InFocus on Atlantic.com has a great photo set of Nepal shortly after the quake.

CNN also has a great photo gallery

You can also watch the scary video of the avalanche hitting the Base Camp at Mt. Everest posted by Jost kobusch(contains a bunch of f-bombs).

It’s a terrible tragedy and makes me really think of two things. First, I am disappointed that US media focuses on the Google Executive that was killed on Everest (at least in the early going – perhaps bringing the tragedy home) instead of immediately focusing on the immense crisis in Kathmandu. Second, a m7.8 is the same estimated size as the 1906 SF Quake and is certainly a size that the San Andreas fault can trigger all up and down the state and according to the LA Times have deadly consequences here as well.. Hopefully this will really make people want to prepare more for the certain to happen quake.

If donation is your thing, be sure to donate to your favorite relief organization.

New Madrid Anniversary

It’s been 203 years since the largest earthquake sequence in the Eastern US occurred: The New Madrid sequence. From the USGS web site:

Shortly after 2 o’clock on the morning of December 16, 1811, the Mississippi River valley was convulsed by an earthquake so severe that it awakened people in cities as distant at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk, Virginia. This shock inaugurated what must have been the most frightening sequence of earthquakes ever to occur in the United States. Intermittent strong shaking continued through March 1812 and aftershocks strong enough to be felt occurred through the year 1817. The initial earthquake of December 16 was followed by two other principal shocks, one on January 23, 1812, and the other on February 7, 1812. Judging from newspaper accounts of damage to buildings, the February 7 earthquake was the biggest of the three.

Read more about it

A great graphic from Encyclopedia Brittanic:

Copyright Encyclopedia Brittanic

Copyright Encyclopedia Brittanic

The Best of Volcano Photos

I love this tweeted photo of Sinabung Volcano in Indonesia that was posted last week:

and in a timely manner, Alan Taylor over at the In Focus blog has a great gallery of the Year in Volcanic Activity. Truly spectacular stuff!

Mid Niigata (2004 Chuetsu) Quake Anniversary

Coming on the heels of the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake, yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the largest quake I have felt outside of California. Daniel and I were just beginning our second trip to Japan in 2004 and had just gotten back to the hotel after running some errands. We went to an Internet Cafe so I could arrange to meet a colleague at Tokyo Disneyland the following week. Also we made a return visit to one of our favorite Tokyo places – Daiba where we got to take a ride in a driver-less car (way before Google did it!) at the Toyota MegaWeb as well as walk around the shopping areas, the farmers market, and the other misc buildings in the area.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were debating what to do that night. Daniel wanted to go out and explore and I was jet-lagged and was thinking we should stay in for the night. As I went into the bathroom the whole building shook strongly. We were both surprised how strong it felt, and we immediately felt another large aftershock. We went downstairs just to be safe and the guy behind the check in counter at the Hotel Kazusaya was unimpressed and probably thought we were nuts.

Heading back upstairs we watched the TV and discovered the origin of the quake in Niigata prefecture which was 120 miles away. They kept showing the same CCTV footage of a guy getting scared and had some English information on NHK. To prevent panic back home, we both called our parents to let them know we were OK. Daniel’s mom was up and at work while I woke my mom up in the middle of the night.

The rest of our Tokyo time was marked by several large aftershocks. When we visited the Tokyo Disney Resort the following week we heard about how quakes affected the Resort. Thankfully we did not have any larger aftershocks during our stay at the Resort and the rest of the trip was normal.

The third largest quake I ever felt, and it still sticks with me today. Especially the story of Minagawa family and of course the movie A Tale of Mari and Three Puppies.

My original story from 2004
Earthquake Memorial 10 years later
2012 story about Yuta Minagawa
Rescued boy dreams of helping disaster victims – you go Yuta. I hope you achieve your dreams.

Loma Prieta 25 years later

There is so much I can say (and if you know me I have said it ad nauseum over the last 25 years) about the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989. It was my senior year of high school and for whatever reason (and despite two other big quakes I lived through) has had the biggest influence (quake category) on my life. Five years ago I wrote my story about the experience and re-reading it recently it still manages to perfectly caputre what happened that day.

When you check out that post from 5 years ago, be sure to look at the links to some of my favorite YouTube videos from that day. New this year is the video below of the aborted beginning of Game 3 and the first part of the actual Game 3 played 10 days later.

ESPN’s 30 for 30 recently premiered a new documentary titled “The Day the Series Stopped” which I thought was pretty good. One of the more interesting parts was footage of the completed game 3 including when Matt Williams hit a home run that landed right in front of me in the Left Field stands. I took a screen capture. I unfortunately have no idea what I was wearing that day to the game, but I know I am in this picture!

Screen Capture of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series

Screen Capture of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series

This is part 5 of Earthquake Week at Club Josh for the 25th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta Quake on 10/17/1989.

Progress Toward a Safer Future

The USGS has put out a Fact Sheet on progress made since the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake. To me it seems like yesterday, but it is really amazing how much technology has changed in 25 years and how instant Quake notifications and reports are now routine and commonplace.

From the synopsis:
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake interrupted several decades of seismic tranquility in the San Francisco Bay Area. It caused damage throughout the region and was a wakeup call to prepare for potentially even more damaging future quakes. Since 1989, the work of the U.S. Geological Survey and many other organizations has improved the understanding of the seismic threat in the Bay Area, promoted awareness of earthquake hazards, and contributed to more effective strategies to reduce earthquake losses. These collective efforts will help reduce the impact of future large earthquakes in the Bay Area.

Check out the publication

This is part 3 of Earthquake Week at Club Josh for the 25th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta Quake on 10/17/1989.