Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's Our Fault

Friday at approximately 4:36 AM the Midwest was rocked by a rare but significant earthquake.

Measuring 5.2, with its epicenter about 38 miles north-northwest of Evansville, Indiana, news reports claimed it could be felt as far as 900 miles away.

As a lifelong Midwesterner, I've felt only one earthquake my entire life. It was some time in the late '80s. I was at home, sitting in my living room, when I felt something gently shaking my chair back and forth. It was almost as if a very large semi-truck was rumbling by right outside my door.

Despite all the dramatic news coverage on this latest quake, I managed to sleep right through it. A terrible, dual irony, since I probably would have enjoyed it, and have laid awake at precisely that time on countless nights.

I may still get my chance, however, because seismologists say the New Madrid Fault could make a big move pretty much any time. The New Madrid Fault is responsible for what is considered one of the largest earthquakes in American history, striking twice on December 16, 1811, then again on January 23, 1812. The final, and strongest quake, occurred on February 7, and aftershocks continued for weeks afterward.

The quakes created new lakes -- such as Tennessee's Realfoot Lake -- altered the flow of the Mississippi River, and delivered strong movement over approximately 50,000 square miles. For comparison, the San Francisco's earthquake of 1906 traveled only 6,000 square miles. Experts now estimate the New Madrid quake's strength at 8.0.

If and when it hits, scientists say the movement will be strong enough to shake our groove things all the way north to Milwaukee. And for our friends further south -- say, Little Rock, Arkansas -- the effects will be especially pronounced.

That is, if the Yellowstone supervolcano doesn't get us all first.

This has been your Good Scare for the day.


John Hornor Jacobs said...

Twain tells a wonderful tale of a robber trying to evade a posse with ill-gained loot. He makes Memphis in the dead of night and takes a ferry across into Arkansas. On the other side, he shoots the ferry man and launches the raft downriver, content that he's evaded justice and prevented any crossing that night. He rides on a bit, then settles down and makes camp.

In the middle of the night, he's rattled away by the earth shaking itself like a dog come fresh from swimming in the river. In the morning, he pushes west and in front of him he finds...the mighty Mississippi, whipping trees and logs past in its turgid brown currents. He hears the baying of dogs at his back.

They hang him the next evening and a day later, the Mississippi resumes its old course.

John Hornor Jacobs said...

Oh, I wanted to add that they say now that volcanic actions are one of the factors that can send the earth spiraling into an ice age. The spewing of millions of tons of particulate matter into the atmosphere not only helps reflect heat back into space but helps precipitation around the world, the moisture caught in the air given a shady, cool environment and a particle to coalesce around.

Or climate now is like a top spinning quickly, but at some point, as the top slows, it begins to teeter and comes to rest.

God help us all when it does. I don't know if I prefer a disease ridden swampworld or a sterile frigid icicle. Either pretty much sucks major assicles. But until then, I plan to live and love well. I hope my children have a world to inherit.

Tyler Monfredi said...

Well if yellowstone erupts guess which major city is the closest.
Salt Lake City.
I'm still not sure if thats a blessing or a curse, we can pretty much expect to be wiped out, but you poor bastards get to deal with decades of smoke and lung disease.
Guess you can tell me all about it when I see you in hell.