Researchers Find New Cause of Strong Earthquakes

A geologic event known as diking can cause strong earthquakes—with a magnitude between 6 and 7, according to an international research team.

quake

Diking can occur all over the world but most often occurs in areas where the Earth’s tectonic plates are moving apart, such as Iceland, Hawaii and parts of Africa in the East African Rift System. As plates spread apart, magma from beneath the Earth’s surface rises into the space, forming vertical magma intrusions, known as dikes. The dike pushes on the surrounding rocks, creating strain.

“Diking is a known phenomenon, but it has not been observed by geophysical techniques often,” said Christelle Wauthier, assistant professor of geosciences, Penn State who led the study. “We know it’s linked with rift opening and it has implications on plate tectonics. Here, we see that it also could pose hazards to nearby communities.”
The team investigated ties between two natural disasters from 2002 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, East African Rift System. On Jan. 17, the Nyiragongo volcano erupted, killing more than 100 people and leaving more than 100,000 people homeless. Eight months later a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck the town of Kalehe, which is 12 miles from the Nyiragongo volcano. Several people died during the Oct. 24 earthquake, and Kalehe was inundated with water from nearby Lake Kivu.

“The Kalehe earthquake was the largest recorded in the Lake Kivu area, and we wanted to find out whether it was coincidence that, eight months before the earthquake, Nyiragongo erupted,” said Wauthier.

The researchers used a remote sensing technique, Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, to measure changes to the Earth’s surface before and after both natural disasters.

“This technique produces ground surface deformation maps. Then, you can invert those deformation maps to find a source that could explain the observed deformation. For the deformation observed in January 2002, we found that the most likely explanation, or best-fitting model, was a 12-mile diking intrusion in between Nyiragongo and Kalehe,” said Wauthier.

The researchers used the same technique for the October 2002 magnitude 6.2 earthquake, analyzing seismicity in addition to ground-deformation changes. They found that there was a fault on the border of the East African Rift System that slipped, triggering the earthquake.

“We were able to identify the type of fault that slipped, and we also had the best-fitting model for the dike intrusion,” said Wauthier. “Knowing both of those, we performed a Coulomb stress-change analysis and found that the January 2002 dike could have induced the October 2002 earthquake.”

Coulomb stress-change analysis is a modeling technique that calculates the stress changes induced by a deformation source at potential receiver faults throughout a region. If the Coulomb stress changes are positive, it means that the source is bringing the receiver fault closer to failure—closer to slipping and generating an earthquake. This type of analysis is regularly applied to assess whether an earthquake in one region could trigger a secondary earthquake nearby.

The researchers hypothesized that the dike opening pushed outward against the adjacent rocks. These rocks became strained and passed stress to rocks adjacent to them, accumulating stress on rocks on a fault in the Kalehe area. The dike brought this fault closer to failure and, eight months later, a small stress perturbation could have triggered the start of the magnitude 6.2 earthquake.

“We’ve known that every time magma flows through the Earth’s crust, you create stress and generate seismicity,” said Wauthier. “But these are normally very low magnitude earthquakes. This study suggests that a diking event has the potential to lead to a large earthquake,” said Wauthier.

The researchers report their findings in the current issue of Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.

New Study Challenges Jupiter’s Role As Planetary Shield, Protecting Earth From Comet Impacts

Not only is the “Jupiter as shield” concept, implying that the planet shields Earth from comet impacts, not true, but perhaps Jupiter’s most important role in fostering the development of life on Earth was just the opposite — delivering the volatile materials from the outer Solar System needed for life to form. This new simulation study, and the previously underestimated role that Saturn may have also played in the evolution of life on Earth, are presented in an original research article published in Astrobiology.

jupiter

In “Jupiter: Cosmic Jekyll and Hyde”), Kevin Grazier, PhD, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, describes the study in which he simulated the evolution of tens of thousands of particles in the gaps between the jovian planets for up to 100 million years. Based on the results, Dr. Grazier concludes that the widely reported shield role attributed to Jupiter is incorrect. The simulations showed that Jupiter teams with Saturn to kick a significant fraction of the particles into the inner Solar System and into orbits that cross Earth’s path. He proposes that a Solar System with one or more planets similar to Jupiter located beyond the region of potential terrestrial planets is beneficial for the development of life.

“In an unprecedented effort to solve the riddle as to whether jovian bodies shield habitable planets from impacts catastrophic to life, Dr. Grazier presents a modeling study that speaks to the incredible complexity of planetisimal evolution in the Solar System,” says Sherry L. Cady, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Astrobiology and a Chief Scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “In this paper, we learn that the overly simplistic ‘Jupiter as shield’ concept is a thing of the past, and future research in this area will require the continued use of the kinds of robust simulation strategies so effectively employed in Dr. Grazier’s work.”

Wild Winds Whip New England Ahead Of Major Snowstorm

The winter storm battering parts of New England Monday isn’t expected to drop 2 to 3 feet of snow in one go, but officials warn that wild winds and blizzard conditions could still cause power outages and tree damage – and make for an uncomfortable, if not dangerous, commute.

snow

The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings from the south of Boston to the South Shore, while areas of eastern New England – including Boston, Hartford, and Providence – are under winter storm warnings. Snow, which began after 8 a.m., may fall at rates of more than an inch an hour in parts of eastern New England, The Weather Channel reports.

But “[i]t’s not just the snow we are talking about – very strong winds, coastal flooding concerns – there could be some power outages, especially south of Boston,” said Cindy Fitzgibbon, meteorologist for Boston’s WCVB 5.

“The heaviest snow will fall this morning into mid/late afternoon across the region,’’ forecasters noted, according to the Boston Globe. “The greatest impact from this storm will not be specific snow amounts, but blizzard conditions.’’

The winter storm, dubbed Mars by The Weather Channel, is a result of a low pressure area off the East Coast – an area that went through what meteorologists call “bombogenesis,” or a sudden central pressure drop of at least 24 millibars in 24 hours.

“ ‘Bombogenesis’ follows from ‘cyclogenesis,’ which refers to the development of a cyclone,” wrote Stu Ostro, a senior meteorologist with The Weather Channel. “Bombs are so named because of the rapidity with which they develop, which evokes explosiveness, and the power that they usually attain once they have gone through the intensification phase specified in the definition.”

Winds of up to 45 miles per hour could blow through eastern New England, while the gusts could hit up to 65 miles per hour on Cape Cod.

Boston Public Schools and dozens of other public and private colleges have canceled classes Monday. The Massachusetts Port Authority has also warned travelers to check their itineraries before heading to Boston’s Logan International Airport, noting that some airlines “have already begun cancelling a number of flights and may be making accommodations for those impacted passengers.”

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker also asked residents to stay off the roads when possible.

Mount Soputan Volcano Erupts In North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Mount Soputan volcano in North Sulawesi province of Indonesia erupted several times on Sunday, spewing a column of hot ash by up to 2.5 km high, official of disaster management agency said.

wpid-chile-volcano

Mount Soputan, located some 60 km from Manado, capital of the province, has high potential for further big eruption which is indicated by persistent tremors with amplitude of 41 mm, Spokesman of National Disaster Management Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho disclosed.

Several subdistricts in Minahasa Tenggara district were hit by rains of ash and volcanic materials that the local disaster agency distributes masks to protect local residents from the impact, he told Xinhua via phone.

The authorities have banned villagers or visitors from entering the area of 4 km from the crater, but at the southwest of the crater the evacuation zone is at 6. 5 km, Mr. Sutopo said.

The 1,874- meter high Mount Soputan is one of Indonesia’s active volcanoes whose number is about 129, according to the National Volcanology Agency.

Storm Imogen: Britain Faces 80mph Winds And Heavy Rain

Britain is to be hit by 80mph winds and heavy rain on Monday as Storm Imogen, the ninth major storm this winter, sweeps in from the Channel.

storm

The Met Office has issued amber “be prepared” weather warnings for much of the south-west and yellow “be aware” warnings stretch from southern Wales to the Thames estuary.

Storm Imogen comes at the end of a wet winter in which storms Henry, Gertrude, Frank and Desmond also battered the UK. The Met Office only started naming storms in 2015.

The warnings will be in place from 3am until 6pm on Monday and exposed areas on the south coast are on alert for winds of 80mph. The Met Office has warned that there could be “very large waves”, especially along the north coast of Cornwall and Devon.

Forecaster Craig Snell said: “We have issued a broad yellow warning of wind that encompasses Cardiff, Bristol and into the Thames estuary. There is an amber warning for wind mainly focused on Devon and Cornwall but stretching into central England on Monday morning.

“This means people should be prepared for disruption to travel on roads, rail, bridges and ferries and we could see possible damage to structures and downed trees risk affecting power. The wind will be combined with some hefty showers with some thunder along the south coast.”

There remains some uncertainty about how far north and east the strongest of the winds will extend, but gusts are expected to ease up on Tuesday. There is forecast to be a drier, quieter and colder interlude for many on Wednesday before more wind and rain follows later in the week.

South West Trains said it was planning to run a normal weekend timetable on all routes but that the risk of trees and debris being blown onto the railway might require the train line to “make adjustments to trains in certain areas”.

“In particular, the first trains to run over tracks may need to be cancelled to allow us to ensure these routes are clear and safe to run passenger services,” the statement read. “There may also be changes in the number of carriages to some services.”

The British Met Office and its Irish counterpart Met Eireann last year started following the approach taken by the US National Hurricane Centre and giving storms names in order to better communicate with the public.

Names are given in alphabetical order, though the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used. The two Met offices released the official list of storm names in October and the next storm to hit the UK will be named Jake.

Dozens Still Trapped A Day After Taiwan Earthquake

TAINAN, Taiwan – With anxious families waiting nearby, rescuers on Sunday painstakingly pulled more survivors from the remains of a high-rise apartment building that collapsed a day earlier in a powerful earthquake that shook southern Taiwan and killed at least 26 people. More than 100 remained buried in the building’s rubble.

earthqake

The government in Tainan, the worst-hit city, said that more than 170 people had been rescued from the 17-story building, which folded like an accordion after the quake struck.

Mao Yi-chen, 20, was rescued soon after the magnitude-6.4 quake hit before dawn Saturday, and her older sister Mao Yi-hsuan was pulled out Sunday in serious condition. A rescue worker had handed over a photo album and homemade cards found next to her for her family to collect, said local official Wang Ding-yu.

“He said that ‘maybe your home is damaged, but memories of the family can last,'” Wang said.

Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te said authorities estimated that 124 people were still trapped, many at the bottom of the wreckage. He said rescuers were able to reach many people by using information from residents who got out about the possible locations of those still inside.

Wendy Chuang, a reporter in Taiwan, told CBS Radio News that the building was unrecognizable.

“Actually if no one told me, it’s hard to tell that’s a building because it just fell down and you can’t tell which way it fell down actually,” Chuang said. “You can’t find where’s the doors, where’s the front, where’s the back.”

Two of the trapped, a male and a female at different sides of the building, were talking to rescue workers on Sunday evening, Lai said. He told reporters that rescuers intended to pull them out, and then bring in heavier excavators to remove part of the structure on top to allow access to the areas at the bottom.

The spectacular fall of the high-rise, built in 1989, raised questions about whether its construction had been shoddy. Tainan’s government said the building had not been listed as a dangerous structure, and Taiwan’s interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said an investigation would examine whether the developer had cut corners.

Eighth-floor resident Huang Guang-wei was pulled out Sunday morning from a different section from where he lived, showing how distorted the building is, Lai said. Rescuers could see Huang only through a 10-centimeter (4-inch) crack and it took eight hours to get him out, Lai said.

Among the fatalities was a 6-month-old baby girl who was pulled from the rubble and rushed to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. A deceased man believed to be her father was pulled out 40 minutes later, Wang said.

A man in his 60s, whose son escaped and whose daughter-in-law was in serious condition, was trying to help rescuers pinpoint his grandsons. “My 11- and 12-year-old grandsons are still inside on the ninth floor,” said the man, who gave only his surname, Huang. “I told my son not to buy an apartment here; it was suspiciously cheap.”

Beside him, another man nodded in agreement as he waited for news of his own relatives on the seventh floor.

The city government said that 24 of the 26 confirmed deaths from the earthquake were from the building collapse. It said that 171 had been rescued from the building, 91 of whom were sent to hospitals. More than 100 people were rescued from other parts of Tainan, eight of whom received hospital treatment. Nine other buildings in the city collapsed and five careened.

On Sunday, thousands of rescuers worked on different levels of the folded building, which was supported by steel pillars. Rescuer Su Yu-min said they were trying to cut through walls and pillars.

“It takes a few hours to complete a search for just one household and sometimes it takes two hours just to go forward 30 centimeters (12 inches)” when the way is blocked by a wall, he said.

Taiwanese broadcaster EBC showed video of volunteers trying to comfort the mother of a missing 20-year-old man, Chen Guan-yu. “He always thinks of me,” said the woman, whose name was not given. “He worries about me being single and lonely and that no one is taking care of me.”

The quake came two days before the start of Lunar New Year celebrations that mark the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar.

Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan, but most are minor and cause little or no damage, though a magnitude-7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

Taiwan Earthquake: Tainan Hit By 6.4-Magnitude Quake

The death toll was rising in the historic city of Tainan, which bore the brunt of the 6.4-magnitude quake, as rescuers scoured rubble for survivors.

quake

Nearly 340 people were rescued from the rubble in Tainan, the city hit worst by the quake. About 2,000 firefighters and soldiers scrambled with ladders, cranes and other equipment to the ruins of the 17-floor residential building, which folded like an accordion onto its side after the quake struck.

Local authorities said Saturday night that more than 100 people remained missing and that rescuers were racing to find them. Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that 172 people were missing.

An entire residential complex of four buildings containing almost 100 homes toppled, left on its side with twisted metal girders exposed and clouds of dust rising from the jumbled concrete.

The official CNA news agency reported that the quake killed 14 people and injured 484 others, according to statistics by Taiwan’s rescue authorities. Most of the injured had been released from hospitals by Saturday night.

CNA said 153 people remained missing and that rescuers were racing to find them. Taiwan’s SETV reported that 101 adults and 41 children were missing. The number of missing was expected to drop because some of those listed might have been listed twice, hospitalized or not in the building at the time of the quake.

Rescuer Jian Zhengshun said the rescue work was difficult because part of the high-rise building was believed to be buried underground, with the quake loosening the earth. He said rescuers had to clear rubble for passages to reach people who were trapped.

Rescuers found the bodies of a 10-day-old infant, three other children and six adults at the collapsed building, the information center said. One other death was reported at the site, but details were not immediately available.

Authorities said two people were killed by falling objects elsewhere in Tainan.

Officials said four buildings collapsed in the quake which struck the island in the early hours of the morning, but rescue efforts are centring on the tower block that tumbled onto its side.

Firefighters pulled survivors from the twisted concrete, trying to access apartments through windows and scaling the rubble with ladders.

Around 800 troops have been mobilised to help the rescue effort, with sniffer dogs also searching through the rubble.

The baby, a man and a woman were pulled dead from the block, officials said, with 29 residents taken to hospital.

“These three people showed no signs of life before they were sent to the hospital,” said Lin Kuan-cheng, spokesman for the National Fire Agency.

“The search and rescue work continues there, home by home.”

Residents at the felled Wei-kuan Building told of their terror as the quake hit, with survivors pulled bleeding and crying from the ruins, some just in their underwear.

“I saw buildings shake up and down and left and right,” said one resident. “The first and second floor just collapsed,” he told local channel SET TV. Another man tied his clothes together to create a rope and lowered himself from his home on the ninth floor to the sixth floor below, Apple Daily reported.

One woman told how she had fought her way out of her home.

“I used a hammer to break the door of my home which was twisted and locked, and managed to climb out,” she told SET TV, weeping as she spoke.

Rescuers have freed more than 250 people from the apartment complex, with over 40 of them hospitalised.

Interior minister Chen Wei-jen said he feared there may be more people in the building than usual as family members would have returned to celebrate the Lunar New Year holidays next week.

“We are concerned that most members of those families may have returned for the coming new year holiday,” he said.

Heartfelt appeals for the missing were posted on social media. “My friend in Wei-kuan is currently missing. His brother is waiting at the scene and other relatives are at the hospital looking among those injured. If anyone has related news, please get in touch,” one user called applexgreen posted on Taiwan’s popular PTT forum.

Another named Ahan asked for information on a family of three with a two-year-old son who lived on the seventh floor of the building.

“My mother is the child’s nanny. We haven’t been able to get in contact,” the post said.

Officials were unable to give an estimate of how many were still trapped as they scoured the building.

As dawn broke, live Taiwanese TV showed survivors being brought gingerly from the building, including an elderly woman in a neck brace and others wrapped in blankets.

The trappings of daily life — a partially crushed air conditioner, pieces of a metal balcony, windows — lay twisted in what appeared to be nearby rubble.

People with their arms around firefighters were being helped from the building, and cranes were being used to search darkened parts of the structure for survivors.
One woman told how she had fought her way out of her home in one of the collapsed blocks.

“I used a hammer to break the door of my home which was twisted and locked, and managed to climb out,” she told local channel SET TV, weeping as she spoke.

Men in camouflage uniforms, apparently military personnel, marched into one area of collapse carrying large shovels.

Aerial images of at least two different buildings showed what appeared to be significant devastation. It was unclear if both were residential structures.

The Taiwanese news website ET Today reported a mother and a daughter were among the 34 people pulled from one of the Wei Guan buildings and that the girl drank her urine while waiting for rescue, which came sooner than expected.

The temblor struck about 4am local time. It was located some 36km southeast of Yujing, and struck about 10km underground, according to the US Geological Survey.

It was felt as a lengthy, rolling shake in the capital, Taipei, on the other side of the island. But Taipei was quiet, with no sense of emergency or obvious damage just before dawn.

Officials said there were 256 people registered as living in the complex, which contained 96 apartments.

Dazed and exhausted residents stood outside the toppled buildings, watching rescue workers free survivors — from infants to the elderly, some strapped to stretchers — and carefully hand them down ladders.

Cranes towered over the disaster zone with diggers trying to move slabs of concrete.

Eight shelters have been set up around the city, with over 100 people taking refuge there, while restaurants and hotels offered free food and rooms to residents.

“The buildings collapsed, but Tainan will stand again! Please treat here like your temporary home, rest well and freshen up. You aren’t alone,” said one Tainan hotel called Adagio Travel on its Facebook page.

Separately, at least 30 people were earlier freed from another residential seven-storey tower.

Officials said several blocks had collapsed or half collapsed in other parts of the city, with some buildings left leaning at alarming angles.

Across Tainan, more than 400 people were injured, with over 60 hospitalised. Around 400,000 had been left without water, authorities said, and more than 2,000 homes are still without electricity.

China has offered rescue assistance if needed, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) at around 4:00am (2000 GMT Friday), 39 kilometres northeast of Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second-largest city.
Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by earthquakes.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami was not expected.

A strong 6.3-magnitude quake which hit central Taiwan in June 2013 killed four people and caused widespread landslides.

A 7.6-magnitude quake struck the island in September 1999 and killed around 2400 people.