seismology

Watch on the-earth-story.com

These geologists are collecting shallow level seismic data on Mt. Etna. Hitting that plate with a sledge hammer sends a pulse of seismic energy into the ground. As it travels, it will bend and bounce off of different layers in the subsurface. Some of these bounces send the energy back towards the surface, where it can be detected and used to determine the depth and composition of the layers.

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Thingvellir National Park in Iceland is where the Vikings held their parliament meetings and the subsequent Icelandic government continued to use the sight to convene their general assembly from 930 to 1798. It’s also where the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates meet, hence the huge fissure which is the result of earthquakes and seismic movement.

When tectonic plates collide, sometimes one plate sinks, or subducts, below another one. This can trigger an earthquake. When earthquakes cause the ocean floor to move, the water moves, too. Columns of water travel across the ocean and grow taller as they approach land, becoming a tsunami.

Scientists use computer models to predict whether a tsunami will occur. The model can forecast the wave’s speed, direction, and height as it approaches land. Local authorities can then warn communities that might be in danger.

Learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis.

2

I had to go back to Facebook to save a few photos from my profile before permanently deleting my account. Thank God I suddenly remembered these photos before going forward with it. It gives you a 2 week notice before your account is terminated and so, it gives you time to think it over and cancel. I had to briefly cancel deactivation of my FB because I had these photos I fear would be lost forever.

The first one was taken of me with famous California seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones at an ECA(Earthquake Country Alliance) meeting in Riverside at a Simpson Strong-tie factory. A kind acquaintance sent me a notification that Lucy Jones will be appearing at a meeting. This was taken August 15, 2014. It was extremely exciting.

The next picture you see was from an earlier time. It was a few days after my 24th birthday in October 2013. This is me with Kate Hutton(another famous seismologist here in California) at Caltech in Pasedena. I have contact with her and she invited me over for a tour of the seismology lab and I also saw the earthquake conference room. I wanted to hold onto these moments forever. I now went on to terminating my FB.

The Sheriff’s Secret Seismology Team announced that today’s rumbling, which caused quite a bit of structural damage and knocked out power for one third of the town, did not register at all on the Richter scale, which is a thing seismologists use to assign two-dimensional numbers to complex multidimensional physical events.
— 

Welcome to Night Vale

Episode 51 - Rumbling

Inge Lehmann [1888 - 1993]

Inge Lehmann was a Danish Seismologist who discovered the Earth’s inner core. In 1936 she postulated from existing seismic data that the Earth’s core is not a single molten sphere, but that an inner core exists, which has physical properties that are different from those in the outer core. This conclusion was quickly accepted by seismologists, who up to this time had not been able to propose a workable hypothesis for the observation that the P-wave created by earthquakes slowed down when it reached certain areas of the inner Earth.

7.1 magnitude earthquake rocks Mexico City

More than 200 people, including 21 schoolchildren, are dead after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked central Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, hitting on the 32nd anniversary of the biggest quake to strike the country’s capital.

Yesterday’s earthquake was centered about 75 miles southeast of Mexico City and caused extensive damage, leveling at least 44 buildings, including homes, schools and office buildings, according to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who did a flyover of the city Tuesday afternoon.

Among the dead are at least 25 people — 21 students and four teachers — at a collapsed primary school in the south of the capital. So far, 11 people have been rescued, but two students and one teacher remain missing, according to Education Minister Aurelio Nuno.

Rescuers continued to comb through the wreckage, looking for survivors Wednesday, pausing to listen for voices. Relatives told The Associated Press they received WhatsApp messages from two girls inside.

“Children are often the most vulnerable in emergencies such as this, and we are particularly concerned because schools across the region were in session and filled with students,” said Jorge Vidal, the director of operations at Save the Children in Mexico. (GMA)

See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Twitter and Tumblr.

People are seen injured after an earthquake hit in Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 2017. (Photo: Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People remove debris of a building which collapsed after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People are carried onto an ambulance after being pulled out of the rubble following a quake in Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A man walks over the rubble of a house badly damaged by a quake in Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People react after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People remove debris of a building which collapsed after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People react as a real quake rattles Mexico City on September 19, 2017 as an earthquake drill was being held in the capital. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People evacuated from office buildings gather in Reforma Avenue after an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway sickeningly in the capital on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage. (Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A woman is assisted after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Picture of a car crashed by debris from a damaged building after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People clear rubble after an earthquake hit Mexico City, Mexico September 19, 2017. (Photo: Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A rescuer looks for possible victims after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People remove debris of a building which collapsed after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Picture of a car crashed by debris from a damaged building after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People remove debris of a building which collapsed after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A woman speaks on her cell phone as people evacuated from office building gather in Reforma Avenue after an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway sickeningly in the capital on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage.(Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People react after a real quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017 while an earthquake drill was being held in the capital.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt /AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Police officers cordon the area off after a building collapsed during a quake in Mexico City on September 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People remove debris of a damaged building after a real quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017 while an earthquake drill was being held in the capital.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A man enters a damaged building after an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake has jolted Mexico, causing buildings to sway sickeningly in the capital on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage. (Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People stand at a building which collapsed after a quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt /AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A woman is assisted after being injured during a quake in Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla. (Photo: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People react as a real quake rattles Mexico City on September 19, 2017 as an earthquake drill was being held in the capital. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt /AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A police officer stands guard near a building which collapsed after a queke rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A woman is assisted after being injured during a quake in Mexico City on September 19, 2017.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A woman is assisted after a real quake rattled Mexico City on September 19, 2017 while an earthquake drill was being held in the capital.
A powerful earthquake shook Mexico City on Tuesday, causing panic among the megalopolis’ 20 million inhabitants on the 32nd anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 7.1 while Mexico’s Seismological Institute said it measured 6.8 on its scale. The institute said the quake’s epicenter was seven kilometers west of Chiautla de Tapia, in the neighboring state of Puebla.
(Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt /AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A man is assisted in Mexico City after a real quake rattled the country on September 19, 2017 as an earthquake drill was being held in the capital. (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

A woman is comforted after an earthquake in Mexico City Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, causing buildings to sway sickeningly in the capital on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage. (Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People react as a real quake rattles Mexico City on September 19, 2017 as an earthquake drill was being held in the capital. (Photo: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

People react as a real quake rattles Mexico City on September 19, 2017 as an earthquake drill was being held in the capital. (Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images)

Source: Yahoo News Photo Staff

Happy Birthday Inge Lehmann, Discoverer of Earth's Inner Core

In 1929 a large earthquake occurred near New Zealand. Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann “the only Danish seismologist,” as she once referred to herself—studied the shock waves and was puzzled by what she saw. A few P-waves, which should have been deflected by the core, were in fact recorded at seismic stations. 

Lehmann theorized that these waves had traveled some distance into the core and then bounced off some kind of boundary. Her interpretation of this data was the foundation of a 1936 paper in which she theorized that Earth’s center consisted of two parts: a solid inner core surrounded by a liquid outer core, separated by what has come to be called the Lehmann Discontinuity. Lehmann’s hypothesis was confirmed in 1970 when more sensitive seismographs detected waves deflecting off this solid core.

Born in Denmark in 1888, Lehmann was a pioneer among women and scientists. Her early education was at a progressive school where boys and girls were treated exactly alike. This was a sharp contrast to the mathematical and scientific community she later encountered, about which she once protested to her nephew, Niles Groes, “You should know how many incompetent men I had to compete with—in vain.” Groes recalls, “I remember Inge one Sunday in her beloved garden…with a big table filled with cardboard oatmeal boxes. In the boxes were cardboard cards with information on earthquakes…all over the world. This was before computer processing was available, but the system was the same. With her cardboard cards and her oatmeal boxes, Inge registered the velocity of propagation of the earthquakes to all parts of the globe. By means of this information, she deduced new theories of the inner parts of the Earth.”

A critical and independent thinker, Lehmann subsequently established herself as an authority on the structure of the upper mantle. She conducted extensive research in other countries, benefiting from an increased global interest in seismology for the surveillance of clandestine nuclear explosions. When Lehmann received the William Bowie medal in 1971, the highest honor of the American Geophysical Union, she was described as “the master of a black art for which no amount of computerizing is likely to be a complete substitute.” Lehmann lived to be 105.

Learn more about Lehmann and experience the power of earthquakes in the exhibition Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters, now on view. 

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I studied volcanoes in Kamchatka, Russia this summer through the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Petropavlovsk. My team only traversed around Mutnovsky and Gorely volcanoes, but there are over 130 volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula and this group was only a handful of the volcanoes on our study location’s horizon. 

Do you know what’s fact and fiction when it comes to earthquakes? Is there really such a thing as “earthquake weather”? Will California fall into the ocean during a major quake? Do you know what to do to stay safe when the ground starts shaking? Caltech scientists debunk some of the most common myths surrounding seismic events.

So, about that earthquake advisory...

At this point, it seems that the whole internet has heard the story about how a swarm of earthquake activity near the Salton Sea in Imperial County, California, has raised the chances of a large earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, and an earthquake advisory was issued detailing all of this. If many headlines and reactions to them are to believed, the Big One is imminent, and large swathes of southern California are about to bite the big one.

So, how much of this is true? Do we need to worry?

Well, the raised probability aspect is, in fact, true - or it is according to our best understanding of how faults interact with each other. But we’re talking a raise to a maximum of a 1% chance in the next seven days. One percent! Or less! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 1% chance of something bad happening get magnified into It Is Imminent And About To Happen, but that’s how this story is increasingly being spun. It’s misleading at best, and harmful at worst, when one major initial purpose of the earthquake advisory was simply to acknowledge that scientists are paying attention to what’s going on down there instead of just ignoring it.

Wait, but it did go up? How, then?

Faults are actually a lot like people. They undergo a lot of stress from day to day. For people, stress can come from a lot of things, but for faults, it mainly comes from the long-term motion of tectonic plates. People have a whole lot of different coping mechanisms to not break under the stress, but all faults share the same coping mechanism: friction. Just like you may have a breakdown when you can’t handle the stress in your life, faults break when the amount of stress they’ve accumulated is too much for friction to resist. That breaking process is an earthquake.

Most of the stress on a fault comes from plate motion, but other earthquakes on nearby faults can also add stress to the picture. The bigger the earthquake, the more stress it inflicts on everything around it. But, unlike stress accumulation from plate motions, the stress change from another earthquake is pretty instantaneous. It’s possible - and has happened - for an earthquake to set off another one within seconds, hours, or even a couple of days, but the longer you go since that earthquake, the more apparent it becomes that the stress change wasn’t enough to send any other faults into breakdown mode.

So - that increase in earthquake likelihood on the San Andreas, up to maybe as high as one percent last week, came from the stress changes from this earthquake swarm on top of the regular tectonic stresses. The odds are lowering again now that the swarm itself is slowing down.

But the bigger issue is - is that increase actually something to worry about?

I’d say not particularly, no, and I’m not alone among seismologists here.

Firstly - there are lots of swarms like this near the Salton Sea. They happen a couple of times per decade, and they tend to last for a few days. Swarms in this area in 2008 and 2012 had earthquakes with magnitudes in the low 5s; the largest one this time around has been a 4.3. These earthquakes all occur on faults that are not the San Andreas, and so far, there is zero historic precedent for one of these swarms directly preceding earthquake on the San Andreas, or any other fault. All of these swarms also raised stresses on the San Andreas, raised the odds of a larger quake to something like what they were last weak, just without a formal earthquake advisory issued - and nothing happened. This is enough precedent that, basically, if there IS a Big One soon, it was very close to happening anyway regardless of the current swarm. It’s entirely possible that a swarm event could eventually be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, but there just isn’t enough energy involved in one of these swarms to bring the fault from Not Particularly Close to Big One. It won’t be the cause in and of itself.

Secondly - earthquakes that aren’t parts of swarms also affect stresses on nearby faults. The larger the earthquake, the more substantial the stress change, and the longer the period of increased hazard. Things like the 1992 M7.3 Landers or the 2010 M7.2 El Mayor Cucapah earthquakes kicked the San Andreas a lot harder than this week’s swarm of 4s did, but that didn’t set it off, either. If a similar earthquake advisories has been published after those, the percentages would’ve looked scarier than 1%. Earthquake scientists were actually pretty worried after Landers and its M6.4 aftershock near the San Andreas in Big Bear, and that’s not the case right now. We’re observing, but nobody’s particularly worried. Basically, faults affect each other all the time, it’s just that those effects are usually not the immediate triggering of another large earthquake.

Thirdly - the southern San Andreas is considered the highest hazard fault in the state already, but we’ve been living with it that way for a long time. The last earthquake on the part of the San Andreas was sometime in the late 1600s, and the average time between earthquakes on that section of the fault is more like 200 to 250 years. This is a section scientists have been saying is due for a while, which is what brings on the extra attention when there’s a swarm, and the extra nervousness. The most recent USGS statistical earthquake forecast - based on everything we know about every fault in the state - puts the odds of a M6.7 or greater on the southern San Andreas Fault at 19% within the next 30 years and the odds of a M7.5 or greater at 17.3%. That’s the baseline we’re living with, and this swarm hasn’t changed it by very much or for very long. And for another southern California point of comparison, your odds of getting into an accident on a Los Angeles freeway in any given year are higher than the yearly odds of a San Andreas earthquake, let alone your odds of being hurt in that earthquake.

So then…why issue a statement at all?

This kind of thing shows that scientists acknowledge the swarm, acknowledge it’s in an area that has already had media attention for being high hazard, and acknowledge that people are nervous. (Which, hooboy, the advisory did fail as an effective acknowledgment of nerves, looking at the reaction it’s caused.) It’s also some insurance against anyone who can claim later that “nobody said anything about the risk” if this becomes the unprecedented case where the swarm does lead to a damaging earthquake. That was the case with a swarm in central Italy in 2009 which eventually lead to a M6.4. The L’Aquila earthquake killed a bunch of people, and the scientists involved ended up on trial for manslaughter for ostensibly not acknowledging the change in risk. The whole L’Aquila situation was a huge mess of bad communication and bad policy, and that part of Italy didn’t have the precedent of lots of swarms without a bigger quake like the Imperial Valley does, but hey. It happened. We want to avoid that here in California.

Another important goal of advisories like that is to remind people, yes we’re on an active plate boundary and we have earthquakes. Yes, preparedness kits are a good idea. A lot of folks seem to misread “check your emergency kit” as “you’re gonna need it really soon” though, which is…a problem that may be hard to work around. But if you can’t use small earthquakes as a motivator to prepare for big ones, that’s a problem, too. If people are only motivated to prepare in hindsight after getting wrecked by a large earthquake, that’s not an effective mitigation strategy. I absolutely always tell people to use small ones as a reminder to prepare for big ones, but media storms like this are just a sign that scientists need to watch our phrasing, too…

2

Don’t be shaken – Lucy’s not leaving us

Even as the dust was still settling with our nerves still quaking, for many of us in Los Angeles, one woman seemed to have all the answers. That was Lucy Jones, the doctor on-call when the earthquakes strike. 

Some have called her the Beyoncé of earthquakes. Well, she just announced she’s retiring from the U.S. Geological Survey. (But don’t panic. She’s not leaving California behind.)

There’s been a lot of love for Lucy on Twitter. One response I got asked the question many of us have: “Who else will come out in her bathrobe in the middle of the night to say it probably was not a precursor?”

As reporter Rosanna Xia put it: In her 33 years with the USGS, Jones has become a universal mother for rattled Southern Californians. After each quake, she turns fear of the unknown into something understandable.

While most of the earthquake guys aren’t remembered, Dr. Jones is certainly unforgettable to many of us who grew up in Southern California. In addition to making something complicated understandable (and a little less scary), she also helped to dramatically change the way we prepare for earthquakes across Southern California. 


“When the big one hits, people will be living because of the work that she has done." 

– Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti  


What’s next for her? Helping to develop science-based policies on climate change. 

What’s next for us? Wondering who will be the one to settle our nerves with information when we are still quaking after the inevitable next temblor.  


You can read more about Dr. Lucy Jones and her work here. 

@mmaltaisla 


Photos by Los Angeles Times

4

“It was six-legged, I know that; its skin was slaty gray that mottled to dark brown in places. Those brown patches reminded me absurdly of the liver spots on Mrs. Carmody’s hands. Its skin was deeply wrinkled and grooved, and clinging to it were scores, hundreds, of those pinkish "bugs” with the stalk-eyes. I don’t know how big it actually was, but it passed directly over us. One of its gray, wrinkled legs smashed down right beside my window, and Mrs. Reppler said later she could not see the underside of its body, although she craned her neck up to look. She saw only two Cyclopean legs going up and up into the mist like living towers until they were lost to sight.

“For the moment it was over the Scout I had an impression of something so big that it might have made a blue whale look the size of a trout - in other words, something so big that it defied the imagination. Then it was gone, sending a seismological series of thuds back. it left tracks in the cement of the interstate, tracks so deep I could not see the bottoms. Each single track was nearly big enough to drop the Scout into.” - Stephen King, The Mist