The Aftermath: Haiti

16 01 2010

In the waning afternoon sun in Haiti, at approximately 4:53pm on January 12, 2010 – a violent earthquake struck the island. Registering as a 7.0 on the Richter scale, the quake caused widespread destruction all across the island and sent tremors outward felt as far away as Tampa, Florida, eastern Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Jamaica. Damage and casualties were especially prevalent in the Port-au-Prince area where death tolls still rise and thousands upon thousands are missing. At last check, preliminary tolls appear to be near if not over 100,000 in dead and missing, although alternate estimates range from 30,000 to 50,000. Being so close in time to the event, actual numbers are quite uncertain.

Magnitude 7.0
Date-Time Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:53:10
Location 18.457°N, 72.533°W
Depth 13 km (8.1 miles)
Distances 25 km (15 miles) WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti
  130 km (80 miles) E of Les Cayes, Haiti
  150 km (95 miles) S of Cap-Haitien, Haiti
  1125 km (700 miles) SE of Miami, Florida
Parameters NST=312, Nph=312, Dmin=143.7 km, Rmss=0.93 sec, Gp= 25°,
  M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=9
Event ID us2010rja6

The earthquake was caused due to a sudden shift in the fault separating the North American plate and the Caribbean plate. Haiti sits on the invisible boundary between the two. Although the normal slip, or movement, of the plates is only about 20mm per year, the sudden shift resulted in the catastrophic event that unfolded that day. The shift was not a large shift to basic perception, but even the smallest sudden shift in plate tectonics can have deadly consequences.

The region is not unfamiliar to quakes in general. Although quakes of this size haven’t occurred in over a hundred years, it is not uncommon. Below is a list of notable quakes which have occurred in Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean.

Martinique region, Windward Islands 11/29/2007 Magnitude 7.4 Deaths: 1 Info
Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean 09/10/2006 Magnitude 5.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Cayman Islands, Caribbean 12/14/2004 Magnitude 6.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 11/21/2004 Magnitude 6.3 Deaths: 1 n/a
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 10/08/1974 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 0 Info
Guadeloupe, Leeward Islands 12/25/1969 Magnitude 7.2 Deaths: 0 n/a
Samana, Dominican Republic 08/04/1946 Magnitude 8.0 Deaths: 100* Info
Mona Passage, Caribbean 10/11/1918 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 116 Info
Kingston, Jamaica 01/14/1907 Magnitude 6.5 Deaths: 1,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 11/18/1867 Magnitude n/a Deaths: n/a Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 02/08/1843 Magnitude 8.3* Deaths: 5,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 05/02/1787 Magnitude 8.0* Deaths: n/a Info
Jamaica region, Caribbean 06/07/1692 Magnitude n/a Deaths: 2,000* Info
* Denotes Estimated

International efforts have began to take influence in the region. Former United States president, Bill Clinton, has spent time in the area devastated by the quake – inciting that people from the United States and around the world pitch in and help with what they can. He asked everyone to get in contact with relief agencies and donate what they can – but stated that what is needed most is not food or supplies, nor clothing or aid in rescue efforts – but to donate money to the relief agencies. He cited that money is what is needed most at this time. Clinton also beckoned other world leaders to do what they can – to donate aid in any way they could be it helicopters, doctors, equipment to dig through rubble – anything.

Current United States president Obama has made several remarks regarding the devastation, promising a “swift, coordinated and aggressive response” from the United States. Obama also asked other world leaders to fulfill obligations to donate aid to the country in peril.

A parallel statement by former president Clinton stated, “Most countries are way behind on fulfilling it. … If you can provide any emergency help, if you can give us helicopters or basic medical supplies — we need that.”

Although the grinding of these two plates don’t affect most of the United States in ways like it did Haiti, North Americans are still quite vulnerable to earthquakes. Another blog post I’ve done outlines one of the potentially devastating fault zones in the U.S., the New Madrid Fault Zone. View This Article.

For those which have loved ones in the region: President Obama is urging Americans trying to locate family in Haiti to telephone the State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

For any parties which know more about the situation than is posted here: I would love to hear from you. If you have any additional, credible information or a way for non-American individuals to find family in Haiti, send me an email with what you know and I’ll gladly append it to this post and credit you. For others, I would love to hear your feedback on the information posted here. Was it helpful to you? Was it accurate? Just use the comment feature and let me know!

Shared Beliefs

9 08 2009

I was just browsing around and came across a good post by a well known, albeit local, personality. Dan Satterfield is but a television meteorologist to some but an inspiration for others. Since 1995, I’ve been watching his forecasts and enjoying severe weather coverage with his excitable antics. The post I am mentioning here came from his blog, Wild Wild Weather Journal. It’s a good and startling read when you contrast today with tomorrow (figuratively).

Dan’s Wild Wild Weather Blog
Dan’s “Climate Change In Your Backyard” Blogpost

Climate Change – An Intraverted Ideology

9 08 2009

Climate change. Global Warming. Armageddon. Those are words often used interchangibly nowadays. From political lobbyists to dream-stricken scientists to megaconglomerate petroleum manufacturing corporations feeding on a constant stream of both product revenue and government grants, everyone seems to have their own opinion on what those words are, what they mean for this planet and what they mean for themselves. It seems to be a get-rich-quick card for some, unplausible and unthinkable to others – religiously cultivated God-weilding destruction for some and just another fleeting “hearsay” for the rest. What is the reality of it all? After so many debates, arguments, scientific counter-intuitive research and contradictions, who should we really believe? Everyone needs to just shut up, some might say. This may just be the answer. If one was to make a rational look at things, some parts of the planet are warming (if not every part of the world). So what if your area was colder this year, on average, than it has been in the past five decades? Does that mean your area’s particular temperature is a reflection of the world’s mean temperature? Nope. It’s called weather. Weather changes dramatically over short periods of time – it’s in the definition. Our global predicament isn’t called “Global Weather Warming” or “Weather Change” – that would be an absurd observation to attempt to raise a clamour about weather changing over a period of 5 decades. What we are faced with is a global climate change – a rapid (at least in a celestial point of view) change in the environment as a whole.

So there you have it. Your weather may be colder but 95% of the world is warmer. That doesn’t mean the planet is cooling. We hear bickering constantly on mass media headlines and in conflicting science laboratories around the world – are we heating up or are we cooling down? The truth is, we’re heating up. Rapidly. Even at a slow pace, the glaciers are melting and receding faster than at any time in our history. CO2 levels are on the increase in our upper atmosphere – you might not be able to see a noticable difference in ground-level haze because that’s not what’s causing all the problems – it’s miles up in the ozone layer.

As used in the title of my blog post, climate change is an intraverted ideology. It was once a fact, now it’s a belief. How can a fact become a belief? Mankind has bickered and found ways around every excuse or reasoning for being beside or opposed to climate change actions and information, even fact. We have found more ways to say it’s not true or it’s true or we’re all going to die that even Hollywood has cashed in. Climate change has become a mass media staple of our society and is largely becoming just another myth like Ragnarok or Armageddon, Roman gods and goddesses or Loch Ness. What everyone needs to do is sit down, analyse facts and think for themselves. Look at what’s really happening, look at what you can see, touch and taste. Take a peek at sea levels – they’ve risen. The polar caps are receding. Arctic wildlife is going extinct. And here we are, still arguing.

So what does it mean for us? We continue bickering, not really taking much of a substantial stand against it and we end up at point A. Don’t we usually start from point A and progress from there? Not end there? If we continue doing what we’re doing, we are going to damage everything on this planet including ourselves and the planet itself. We’ll be back where we started.

Sea levels will rise, sinking low-lying islands forever, Florida will disappear, California will disappear, DC will be a new Atlantis, Katrina would be commonplace and as jet streams and ocean currents shift, most of the Earth will have a dramatic and sharp weather change. The nation’s midwest will be a dustbowl, the Sahara would become a flood-stricken rainforest, the Pyramids of Egypt would be a monumental man-made island. Famine would spread all over the Earth as the strongest of nations warred with one another over what resources were left. Plague and disease would consume the large percent of the world that perished in the famine and the rest would kill each other over food, weapons, land and other resources. Most of the species on the planet would perish to unevolvable differences with their environment. Plantlife wouldn’t have it quite as bad but most too would also perish. Various aquatic wildlife would perish – most which are accustomed to a certain mean yearly temperature especially. National borders would vanish – there would be no nations, only city-states. No armies to really be had, everyone who wishes to live would have to fend for themselves.

So is all this really worth arguing about – letting time slip by while we try to boast about who’s right and who’s wrong? In the end, does it really matter? If we do nothing and it is true, we’ll all perish anyways (or live one miserable life). Why not do something about it, even if it’s not true? We can always recover from an economic slump. We can always rebuild what may have been sacrificed due to financial strain. We can survive without gas-guzzling 70’s model muscle cars and pick-ups. We can live without mass manufactured plastics and aerosols. Even if the government says do it, even if every scientist in the world all of a sudden agreed that it was real and we’re all going to perish if we don’t do something about it – even if that was the case, it won’t change anything at all! What we all need to do is look inside ourselves, find our own ideas and thoughts, brainstorming on what you can do as an individual to help – bring a though-provoking, epiphany inducing intraverted ideology to the table. If everyone would just do a little bit – bike to work one day a week, recycle at least cans only or plastics only, or carpool once a week, stop smoking, drink tap water instead of bottled water, drive a hybrid instead of a monster – find something, even small, and do it – if we can all do it, we can make an impact, regardless of who says what. It’s not the governments planet, no one owns the planet, no one owns the climate but it’s every single person on this planet’s responsibility to take care of it. It’s a birth right (or birth curse, depending on your viewpoint) to do this. As a human being, it is our responsibility to do something about climate change, even if you think it’s not real.

Why doesn’t everyone play Russian Roulette? Only a select few want to take the risk of being the odd man out. So why play it now when there are six billion people’s lives at stake?

Thank you sincerely for reading my blog post. It means a lot to me. I have put forth my ideas and philosophy on the conflict (and a certain bit influenced by Greg Craven whose own ideology on the conflict inspired me to take action myself). I would enjoy seeing your feedback on the post, hearing your thoughts on the situation.

Tennessee Valley – The Time Bomb?

7 04 2009

You watch it all the time at the movies. Perhaps, you watch it on the news too. You hear about the disasters and the after-effects of them. They are earthquakes. If you are reading this blog and you are a resident of the Southeastern United States, then you are definately in the right region for a risk of a major quake. Given, we haven’t had a major earthquake in the Southeastern United States since 1812. Back then, they did not record the intensities of earthquakes on what is now the Richter Scale – instead, geologists take into account the damage that was left behind, the changes in the topography of the land, eye-witness accounts and other like factors. They estimated that the quake would have been classified as a “Mega-Quake” with an intensity of over 8.0.

Image displays the location of the New Madrid Fault Line.

The effects of the quake were so intense that the massive Mississippi River completely shifted course and Lakes (such as Lake Reelfoot, TN) were formed from massive sinkholes. Citizens several hundred miles from the massive quake’s epicenter felt the vibrations of the disaster, as far away as Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Indiana. The intensity was so startling, that church bells in Boston, MA rang with the shockwaves from the massive quake. So is the quake a “once-in-a-lifetime” event? Perhaps. The average lifetime is 72 years and it happened 197 years ago – so we could be due for another giant quake.

Image displays both earthquakes of 1995 in CA and in 1895 in Missouri along the New Madrid Fault – the colors displayed are the damage spreads of each.

Not only do we have to worry about the New Madrid Fault – we also have, in our area, the Appalacian Fault and the Bermuda Fault. Areas in Northern Alabama (Huntsville, Anniston, Cullman, Florence, Athens, Scottsboro, Decatur) are particularly in the danger zone of the Appalacian Fault stretching southwest from the feet of the Appalacian Mountains. Although no “Massive” quakes have been recorded from the zone, hunderds of smaller quakes have happened. Usually 3-4 times a year, the zone in the northeastern 75 miles of the state recieve a weak earthquake, usually in the 2.0 – 3.5 range on the Richter Scale. This is not a large number, barely noticable to most and usually only causes minimal damage to perhaps windows, loose or unstable chimneys to name a couple. Just because a significant earthquake has not happened in northeast Alabama from the Appalacian Fault does not mean that it can’t — or won’t.

Image displays the number of confirmed earthquakes in the New Madrid Region only since 1974.

Slightly more prone to a larger quake are those persons whom dwell and reside in the southern extent of Alabama (Dothan, Greenville, Montgomery, Selma, Mobile) from a large grouping of fault lines known as the Bermuda Fault Zone. The area stretches from slightly south of Birmingham, AL southward into the Florida Panhandle. Several quakes are recorded each year – ranging from 2.0 all the way up to 4.5 (as in the case of the earthquake just to the east of Birmingham not too long ago).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image displays the spread of damage extending far from the epicenter.

Although the worst case scenario would likely be a quake much like the one of 1812, quakes of that intensity are rare and infrequent. Residents of the Tennessee Valley shouldn’t move out of the southeast just because of the earthquake “potential”, you’ll find that anywhere. Remember, if you get woke up at night because your house is vibrating, it’s likely just a small and common quake (or your spouse is REALLY putting too much time into mechanical engineering). I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you like it, please pass it on and comment on it. I would greatly appreciate it.

Derrick Wales