One week later, a magnitude 7 earthquake destroyed Port au Prince, killing hundreds of thousands of people and devastating the economy of Haiti.
Bob Yeats, Oregon State University.
High school running track in Taiwan crossed by the Chelungpu fault in an earthquake in September 1999.
The clock is ticking on many other earthquake faults throughout the world, Yeats says, and though he did not “predict” the Haiti earthquake, he can point to other places that could face the same fate. He outlines some of these areas in a new book called “Active Faults of the World,” published by Cambridge University Press.
“We are not yet to the point where we can predict earthquakes,” said Yeats, a professor emeritus in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “What we can do is tell you where some of the most dangerous faults lie – and where those coincide with crowded cities, few building codes, and a lack of social services, you have a time bomb.
“Unfortunately, we can’t say if an earthquake will strike today, tomorrow or in a hundred years,” he added. “But in all of these locations it will happen someday – and unless something is done to improve conditions, many thousands of people will die.”
In his book, Yeats notes that the greatest migration in human history is of people moving from rural areas to “megacities” in the developing world. People have flocked to these mega-cities where multi-level housing and businesses are rapidly built, and often poorly constructed and poorly inspected. When many of these locations last had a major earthquake, their population was small and a majority of the people was living in one-story dwellings, limiting the loss of life.
Yeats cites as an example Caracas, Venezuela, which has an earthquake plate-boundary fault north of the city. In 1812, a major quake shook Caracas and other Venezuelan cities and killed an estimated 10,000 people - about 10 percent of the population at that time. Today, the population of Caracas is nearly 3 million, but government decision-makers are “not placing earthquake hazards high on their list of priorities,” Yeats said, despite the presence of knowledgeable local experts.
Another city near the top of Yeats’ list of earthquake dangers is Kabul, Afghanistan, which suffered an enormous earthquake in 1505. Because of recent wars, the buildings in Kabul are in poor shape – either poorly constructed, or damaged from bombs. On a visit to Kabul in 2002, Yeats found many families living in the ruins of these buildings.
“If Kabul has a repeat of the 1505 earthquake,” Yeats said, “it could kill more people than have died in all of Afghanistan’s wars in the last 40 years because of the influx of refugees living in crowded, substandard conditions.”
Tehran, Iran, is another heavily populated city situated near a major fault line. Located at the base of the Alborz mountain range, Tehran has some 11 million people in its urban boundaries, and Yeats said they are vulnerable because of poorly constructed housing in many parts of the city – a result of corruption in building construction and building inspection industries.
Other over-populated cities near fault lines with poor building codes on Yeats’ list include Istanbul, Turkey, now under an earthquake hazard warning after a quake of magnitude 7.4 in 1999; Nairobi, Kenya, close to a 7.3 quake in the 1920s; and Guantánamo, Cuba.
“Guantánamo is a bit like Haiti,” Yeats pointed out. “They have a fault just offshore, and yet they have no clue they are at risk because Cuba has not had any catastrophic earthquakes in its 500-year history. The military prison operated by the United States would also be at risk, but as far as I know, the Americans are not contributing their expertise to help Guantånamo prepare for its future earthquake.”
There are many places around the world likely to experience a major earthquake in the future, Yeats says, but the “risk” to human lives may not be as high because of less crowding and better building codes. He points to the 2011 super-quake in Japan, which reached a magnitude of 9.0, yet did not cause nearly as much destruction as the tsunami it triggered.
“The Japanese,” Yeats said, “lead the world in taking earthquake risk seriously.”
Yeats was one of the first geologists to point to the Pacific Northwest as being at risk for a major earthquake, because of its proximity to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Since he and other OSU scientists first raised awareness of that risk in the 1980s, there has been gradual acceptance that an earthquake will strike in the future.
“But will this acceptance lead to concrete action, such as approving a bond issue for seismic upgrades to old school buildings?” Yeats said. “Will it lead to strengthening communities on the West Coast against tsunamis?”
The OSU professor emeritus hopes his book leads to more awareness of the hundreds of faults around the world – some well-known, and some not. This is the first time someone has attempted to summarize the totality of earthquake faults, and Yeats used his own research and observations, as well as exhaustive literature reviews.
“Knowing about the faults is the first step,” Yeats said, “but preparing for the risk is what really needs to happen. It is kind of interesting that Japan has done a lot of work preparing for an earthquake in their Home Islands, and then one bigger than they expected hits northern Japan, accompanied by a devastating tsunami, whose effects have been felt as far away as Oregon.”
A similar thing happened northeast of Beijing, China, in 1976, when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck along a fault line that was not thought to be a major threat, killing more than 200,000 people. And it happened again in 2011 at Christchurch, New Zealand, with an earthquake on a minor fault no one knew about in advance – but still the earthquake produced the greatest losses in New Zealand’s history.
“The lesson there is that you never know which one is going to nail you,” Yeats said, “but it pays to be prepared.”
Yeats’ book, “Active Faults of the World,” is available in print and as an e-book from Cambridge University Press at www.cambridge.org
Note to Editors: An image of earthquake damage in China, taken by Yeats, is available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/7449208516
Robert Yeats | Newswise Science News
Hidden river once flowed beneath Antarctic ice
22.08.2017 | Rice University
Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter
17.08.2017 | Swansea University
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences