Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More on Earthquakes

Alaska: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis

January 24, 12:26 PMAnchorage Conservative ExaminerFranke Schein
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1964 Alaska Earthquake
1964 Alaska Earthquake

In the wake of the severe earthquake that savaged Haiti, one must remember that Alaska faced a similar catastrophe in 1964.

Lasting nearly five minutes, it was the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. and North American history, and the second most powerful ever measured by seismograph. It had a magnitude of 9.2, at the time making it the second largest earthquake in the recorded history of the world.

131 people lost their lives in the earthquake, and thousands were left devastated throughout much of the areas hardest hit.

A large tsunami that reached 70 feet high, and travelling at 450 miles an hour slammed into Alaska’s coastline—flooding much of the areas and creating rockslides that resulted in massive property damages. Vertical displacement of the land rose to approximately 38 feet.
Girdwood and Turnagain Arm, were destroyed by subsidence and subsequent tidal action, and 20 miles of the Seward Highway sank below the high-water mark of Turnagain Arm effectively cutting off the southern road system.

[ Alaska Earthquake March 27, 1964. Earthquake-demolished home in Turnagain Heights in Anchorage. 1964. Image file: /htmllib/batch75/batch75j/batch75z/ake00368.jpg ]

Following the initial earthquake there were approximately 10,000 aftershocks. Eleven major aftershocks were recorded on the first day alone with a magnitude of 6.0, and nine more occurred over the next three days. The earthquake’s aftershocks continued for another eighteen months.
The question that one must ask is will it happen again?

In a book titled “We are the earthquake generation” written in 1978 by Jeffrey Goodman, PHD; details startling facts that point to several distinct phenomena that could trigger another Alaska earthquake.

In one of the hypotheses Goodman concludes that the earth has a bulge along its equator. The circumference of the earth is 27 miles greater around the equator than around the poles. It’s thought that a large accumulation of ice on either pole would be enough to destabilize the earth’s spin, and unbalance it enough to cause the massive tectonic plates to shift—thereby resulting in mega-earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as eruption of several volcanoes within the region.
He also points to other causes that contribute to earthquakes—such as off shore drilling, nuclear weapons discharges, volcanic eruptions, and lowered water levels in the ground that could be the catalysis for future earthquakes.
Considering that Anchorage is the central hub where all of the cargo and supplies are distributed throughout Alaska, the ramifications of another severe earthquake would have potentially devastating effects on the rest of the state.
During the 2009 Mt. Redoubt eruption, most of the air traffic into and out of Anchorage was cancelled because of the volcanic ash threat it posed to commercial aviation. Alaskan’s were stranded in Seattle and Portland awaiting flights to Anchorage, some waited for days until a flight to Fairbanks brought them closer to home.
Alaska is one of the most active volcanic areas on the globe. The Aleutian islands have more active and dormant volcanoes than any other place in the world—and they are prone to earthquake activities.
Should another large earthquake shake the region, it’s possible that one or more volcanoes might erupt. Tidal waves, ash filled skies, and destroyed roadways would wreak havoc on Alaska’s ability to respond to a catastrophe of this nature.
Alaska is one of the most isolate states in the country. Nearly everything that is needed for consumption is either flown in, or brought in by trucks or barges. Any disruption of these vital supply routes will have instantaneous results on critical infrastructure such as fuel distribution, food, and other consumer goods.
Having the foresight to stockpile emergency supplies is almost critical to Alaska’s families. Should another earthquake strike alaska, like it did in 1964, the consequences could be devastating.

Photo: Downtown Anchorage after the 1964 Earthquake

In a future article I will discuss the Pole Shift theory; another phenomena that could trigger earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Associated Press - January 24, 2010 4:54 AM Earthquake rattles near several towns

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