PSN-L Email List Message

Subject: Re: NY TIMES
From: Barry Lotz barry_lotz@.............
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 2010 05:35:23 -0800 (PST)

Simon Winchester also wrote "Krakatoa" which I'm reading now with enjoyment=


--- On Fri, 1/15/10, Edward Ianni  wrote:

From: Edward Ianni 
Subject: NY TIMES
To: psn-l@..............
Date: Friday, January 15, 2010, 1:46 AM

=0A=0A =0A =0A=0AARTICLE IN THE NY TIMES=0A=C2=A0=0A=0AExpecting the Big On=
e =0A!By SIMON WINCHESTER=0APublished: January 14, 2010 =0ATHOUGH it can of=
fer scant comfort to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, =0Aseismology =
is making some slight progress in its search for the holy grail of =0Abeing=
 able to predict dreadful events like that on Tuesday. New studies into =0A=
ultra-slow-motion events deep underground called nonvolcanic tremors are sh=
owing =0Avague but promising signs that the same kind of subterranean dange=
r signals that =0Aallow us today to forecast when a volcano is about to eru=
pt may one day offer =0Asome warning of the hitherto unpredictable nucleati=
on =E2=80=94 the explosive beginning =0A=E2=80=94 of an earthquake. =0ATime=
s Topics: EarthquakesThe most interesting studies are those that are =0Apro=
ceeding, slowly and expensively, in Parkfield, Calif. (as it happens, just =
a =0Alittle north of the road crossing where James Dean was killed in a tra=
ffic =0Aaccident nearly 55 years ago). A deep hole has been drilled into th=
e countryside =0Athere, directly into the San Andreas fault, which runs for=
 800 miles along the =0Ajunction between the North American and Pacific tec=
tonic plates. =0AThe academic and government researchers who run the drilli=
ng program seek to =0Afind out what happens at the precise point of contact=
 between two plates. It now =0Aappears highly likely that the very low impa=
ct, but still measurable, =0Anonvolcanic tremors that the researchers have =
detected in boreholes deep beneath =0Athe San Andreas are in some way assoc=
iated with the destructive earthquakes that =0Aoccur at shallower depths ab=
ove them. What the scientists would still like to =0Adetermine is whether i=
t might be possible to discern a nonvolcanic tremor=E2=80=99s =0Asignature =
in the deep crust some useful time before a major earthquake happens =0Afar=
 above. =0AThis is highly relevant to the disaster in Haiti because the =0A=
Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault, the tectonic culprit behind Tuesday=E2=80=
=99s =0Aearthquake, shares many similarities with the San Andreas: it is a =
strike-slip =0Afault of about half the length (it runs from the Dominican R=
epublic to Jamaica), =0Ait separates two plates (the North American and the=
 Caribbean), for most of its =0Alength it is simultaneously locked solid an=
d under severe stress, and it shears =0Asubstantially every century or so. =
(The last time was in 1907, in Jamaica; =0Ascientists have long warned of a=
 catastrophe =E2=80=94 one day =E2=80=94 involving =0APort-au-Prince.) =0AI=
t is highly likely that the low-impact, nonvolcanic tremors measured in the=
 =0ASan Andreas happen in the Caribbean also. If a real correlation between=
 these =0Atremors and earthquakes can be found, then science will turn out =
to be truly on =0Ato something. Such a relationship has not yet been discov=
ered. But the tremors =0Ado seem to have some unusual bellwether characteri=
stics: there seems to be a =0Acorrelation, for instance, between their occu=
rrence and such external phenomena =0Aas the tides and the phases of the Mo=
on. A link to movements within the Earth=E2=80=99s =0Acrust is at least a f=
urther possibility =E2=80=94 and that is something that could not =0Ahave b=
een said five years ago. Hence the faintest glimmer of hope for =0Aprogress=
..=0ABut then what? If the geophysicists at the University of California at =
=0ABerkeley, the United States Geological Survey, the California Institute =
of =0ATechnology and the Scripps Research Institute are convinced of a corr=
elation, =0Aand then one day detect with their deeply buried devices a sudd=
en swarm of =0Anonvolcanic tremors, would they call the mayor of San Franci=
sco or Los Angeles =0Aand issue a warning? And would the mayors then order =
a mass evacuation? And if =0Athey did, what if the scientists turned out to=
 be wrong? =0AThese are questions well worth asking =E2=80=94 and asking ev=
en more stridently of a =0Aplace that is somewhat less sophisticated than C=
alifornia. If a similar swarm of =0Adata is noticed in the Enriquillo-Plant=
ain Garden fault, would geologists try to =0Awarn the citizens of a city li=
ke Port-au-Prince? And even if the forecasts were =0Aright, would such a wa=
rning save lives, or would it set off panics more lethal =0Athan the earthq=
uake itself?=0AThe branch of seismology that deals with prediction is undou=
btedly in a =0Aslightly better place than it was half a decade ago. But new=
 questions arise =0Awith every step toward the grail, and the answers come =
too slowly to bring true =0Acomfort to anyone today, least of all the unfor=
tunate people of Haiti.=0ASimon Winchester is the author of "A Crack in the=
 Edge of the World: America =0Aand the Great California Earthquake of 1906"=
Simon Winchester also = wrote "Krakatoa" which I'm reading now with enjoyment.

--- On Fri, 1/1= 5/10, Edward Ianni <edwianni1@...........> wrote:

From: Edward Ianni <edwianni1@...........>Subject: NY TIMES
To: psn-l@..............
Date: Friday, January 15,= 2010, 1:46 AM

=0A=0A =0A =0A