Wave of earthquakes shake Yellowstone’s supervolcano

February 22, 2018 by  
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Since the start of February, Yellowstone National Park and its supervolcano have been hit with a wave of at least 20 earthquakes and a number of smaller tremors. Although the largest earthquake only registered a 2.9 on the Richter scale and all have struck about five miles below the Earth’s surface, this so-called earthquake swarm is noteworthy, though likely not reason for alarm. “While it may seem worrisome, the current seismicity is relatively weak and actually represents an opportunity to learn more about Yellowstone,” wrote researchers Michael Poland and Jamie Farrell for the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory . “It is during periods of change when scientists can develop, test, and refine their models of how the Yellowstone volcanic system works.” Though the name may conjure images of aggressive insects , earthquake swarms are actually a fairly common, benign occurrence at Yellowstone. The largest earthquake storm came in 1985, when more than 3,000 earthquakes struck Yellowstone over several months. The area typically experiences 1,000 to 3,000 earthquakes each year, most of which are not felt. Swarms are caused by stress changes at fault lines due to either tectonic forces or local pressure increases resulting from changes in water, magma , or subterranean gas. The highly seismic Yellowstone is affected by both swarm-causing factors. Related: Scientists construct new theory of Yellowstone’s supervolcano hotspot While the earthquake swarms and Yellowstone’s supervolcano are both currently harmless, there is always a small chance that, someday, the big one will arrive. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 1 in 730,000 chance that the supervolcano will experience a major eruption; this is roughly equivalent to the probability of an asteroid collision with Earth. As for what might trigger such an event, tiny tremors serve as reminders. Seismologist Jamie Farrell told National Geographic, “The most likely hazard in Yellowstone is from large earthquakes”. Via National Geographic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Scientists hypothesize why earthquakes happen where they shouldn’t

December 22, 2017 by  
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Scientists at the University of Kentucky and the University of Memphis may have learned why earthquakes often occur in places they aren’t usually expected. The slow, steady grind of tectonic plates and the tension released by tectonic activity are typically cited as the primary cause of earthquakes. However, hundreds of “intraplate” earthquakes occur each year in places that are far from regions where plates meet. Such hot spots for intraplate earthquakes include Charlevoix, Quebec , New Madrid, Missouri, and the eastern third of Tennessee. The researchers believe that these intraplate earthquakes may be caused in part by concentrated crustal deformation at the lowest levels of the continental crust. In a study published in the science journal Tectonics , researchers presented their case that these areas of unusual seismic activity may be affected by damage to the underlying crust. “We present a new hypothesis that major seismic zones are restricted to places where the large-scale basement structures have been damaged by concentrated crustal deformation (CCD),” write co-researchers Christine Powell and William Thomas. CCD refers to any damage in geological history to the solid rock , deepest layers of a continental crust. Damage incurred millions of years ago may reemerge in the form of increased seismic activity. Related: Scientists warn of more severe earthquakes in 2018 as Earth’s rotation slows Though CCD likely contributes to all, each region has its own unique geological story to its unusual seismic activity. For example, the New Madrid Seismic Zone in the Midwestern United States is the result of folding of the local crust during the collapse of Rodinia, a supercontinent that fell apart hundreds of millions of years ago. In Eastern Tennessee , the increased seismic activity is caused by a sudden twist within one of the area’s deep faults. “Although the mechanisms producing the CCD vary, the regionally restricted CCD serves to focus seismicity in these three zones,” write Powell and Thomas. The researchers conclude that while CCD likely impacts these intraplate-earthquake-prone areas, it is not the only contributing factor. There is more to the story. Via ScienceAlert Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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7.3-magnitude earthquake hits Iran and Iraq, killing hundreds

November 13, 2017 by  
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  More than 300 people are dead after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake yesterday. The quake, which struck the northern border region between Iran and Iraq , killed hundreds of people in Iran and at least six people in Iraq. The BBC said this is the world’s deadliest earthquake this year. The 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck 32 kilometers, or around 20 miles, south of Halabjah, Iraq, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), at 21:18 local time. Iranian media said at least 14 provinces in the country were impacted, but Kermanshah was hit the hardest. Thousands of people were injured – the BBC gave the number as over 7,000. The town of Sarpol-e-Zahab had the most victims – and it was hard for people to receive medical care as the town’s main hospital was severely damaged. Related: New super concrete makes buildings strong enough to withstand magnitude 9 earthquakes Many homes in the mountainous area were built with mud bricks , according to the BBC, putting them at risk of collapse during a strong earthquake such as this one. Rescuers worked to find survivors beneath collapsed buildings, and some teams were hindered by mudslides . Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’aLQg7guVSqpAXLNVtA0m7A’,sig:’hHuNL1AV0_nt58qsjJfq6zIN3hrLkz3TwevBjgcHOEc=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’873538724′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); Baghdad residents felt the earthquake; local Majida Ameer told Reuters, “I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air. I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!’” Reuters quoted the head of Iranian Red Crescent as saying over 70,000 people needed shelter following the quake. Many people left their homes to go outside in cold weather in fear of aftershocks – and so far there have been around 153, according to the Iranian seismological center, with more expected. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’uFcvJSipSvVSR9z0J52gzw’,sig:’spq5txH69X6BtLZTpp28fC0ql-oXpfbpPsw-m9AZ1RE=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’873514006′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); According to Reuters, Iran rests across major fault lines , and is prone to tremors. This one hit at a depth of 23.2 kilometers, around 14.4 miles, and was reportedly felt in Kuwait, Israel, and Turkey. The BBC said it’s the deadliest quake Iran has experienced since 2012. It’s the sixth earthquake with a magnitude of seven or more this year – as opposed to 16 in 2016 and 19 in 2015. Via Reuters and the BBC Images via Reuters video and the United States Geological Survey

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The 2,500-year-old bracket that protects China’s Forbidden City against earthquakes

July 27, 2017 by  
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The presence of earthquakes in China has resulted in timber-framing practices that put European design to shame. As early as 500BC, builders in China developed disaster-resistant structures with interlocking flower-shaped brackets called dougong that reduce the impact of earthquakes on buildings. These joints are so effective, they have helped the Forbidden City in Beijing withstand 200 earthquakes in 600 years. Specialist carpenters decided to find out how the Forbidden City has survived so many earthquakes, including the 20th century’s deadliest quake. They constructed a scale model of a structure atop a shake table. To strive for accuracy, they drew on traditional techniques and tools. They then put the structure, a fifth of the size of buildings in the Forbidden City, through simulated earthquakes. The largest earthquake we’ve ever recorded in history had a 9.5 magnitude. But the scale model withstood not only that but a 10.1 magnitude simulated earthquake – and in a video showing the quake, didn’t fall down. Related: Japanese Levitating House System Could Protect Homes From Earthquakes (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.10”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); Secrets of China's Forbidden City This will rock your world. Posted by Channel 4 on Thursday, July 20, 2017 Dougong are often found nestled beneath the eaves and roof, and in case of a quake, they transfer roof weight to the supporting columns found on these old buildings. They don’t need nails or glue to hold together. The brackets don’t shake apart easily, but also aren’t so stiff they’ll shatter under pressure. Multiple joints help them remain stable. One of the more mind-boggling aspects of the test was that the columns of the building designed like those in the Forbidden City were freestanding, and weren’t sunken into foundations. They wobbled in a 10.1 magnitude simulated earthquake, but didn’t collapse in the video. Dougong can be glimpsed on palaces and temples , for example, and according to People’s Daily Online was utilized widely during the Spring and Autumn Period in Chinese history, which spans from around 770 to 476 BC. Via Channel 4 and Core77 Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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The 2,500-year-old bracket that protects China’s Forbidden City against earthquakes

Erin Brockovich helps Oklahoma Pawnee Nation take on fracking companies

July 11, 2017 by  
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Oklahoma has become an earthquake hotspot in recent years, and many are blaming companies that engage in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking . Last year, the state saw its largest earthquake ever recorded at a 5.8 magnitude, close to the town of Pawnee. The Pawnee Nation is suing over 25 oil and gas companies, with the help of famous consumer advocate Erin Brockovich . The amount of earthquakes with a magnitude of 3 or higher in Oklahoma was greater than in California for the first time in 2014. Many people blame the practice employed by oil and gas companies of injecting wastewater from fracking into the Earth. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies National Geographic explained the amount of earthquakes in Oklahoma spiked as did activity from fossil fuel companies. Once the state saw either none or a couple of magnitude 3 earthquakes every year. In 2009 that number escalated to 20. From there the situation only worsened: the state had 109 magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes in 2013, 579 in 2014, 903 in 2015, and 623 in 2016. That’s two or three of these quakes every day. Brockovich actually used to spend her summers in Oklahoma with her grandparents as a child. She told National Geographic, “The only thing I’d worry about growing up there was tornadoes. Now I’d be afraid not of a tornado, but an earthquake? That’s just bizarre.” She said it’s hard “to go back to Oklahoma, to see how on edge [the Pawnee people] are. The question they keep asking is, ‘When will it end?’ The Pawnee Nation is suing Eagle Road Oil LLC, Cummings Oil Company, and 25 other companies for damage to reservation property and historical buildings, with the help of Weitz & Luxenberg along with Brockovich. They say the companies were knowingly causing the earthquakes and their actions “constitute wanton or reckless disregard for public or private safety .” Via EcoWatch and National Geographic Images via Sarah Nichols on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Montana earthquake felt along line of over 500 miles

July 7, 2017 by  
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An earthquake that rocked Montana yesterday was felt by people across hundreds of miles. The 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the western part of the state close to northwest Helena at 12:30 AM local time, but was felt by people in multiple states and even Canada. The quake was large enough to wake people up. The recent Montana earthquake was shallow but was felt by people across a line over 500-miles-long from around Billings to Spokane, Washington. There weren’t any reports of injuries, according to Montana Public Radio, but people over a widespread area were awakened by the shaking. The earthquake was the strongest Montana has experienced in possibly over a decade – according to NPR a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck in 2005. Related: Oklahoma earthquake activity up 4000%, locals sue oil and gas companies Between 12:30 AM and 1:31 AM on July 6, a minimum of 10 measurable tremors struck Montana, and the last two had magnitudes of 3.9 and 4.4. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake “occurred as the result of shallow strike slip faulting along either a right-lateral, near vertical fault trending east-southeast, or on a left-lateral vertical fault striking north-northeast.” The earthquake hit around 230 miles away from Yellowstone National Park , and as it was felt over such a wide area some people wondered if the Yellowstone supervolcano had become active. But the park service said the area typically has over 1,000 earthquakes yearly, and experts have said it is very unlikely a large eruption will occur in the next 1,000 to 10,000 years. The earthquake may not have stemmed from the supervolcano but still rattled residents out of the routine of their daily lives. Volunteers pitched in to help clean up a local grocery store in Lincoln, the D&D Foodtown, which lost pickle jars and wine bottles – but assistant manager Ruth Baker said all of the eggs in the store survived. Via NPR and the United States Geological Survey ( 1 , 2 ) Images via Wikimedia Commons and screenshot Save

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Montana earthquake felt along line of over 500 miles

China breaks ground on 12-mile treetop walkway in Fuzhou forest

July 7, 2017 by  
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China’s magnificent new walkway is giving people a treetop experience of Fuzhou’s sub-tropical forests unlike any before. Singapore-based LOOK Architects recently completed the first phase of the Fuzhou Forest Walkway, a snaking treetop walkway that will span over 19 kilometers (nearly 12 miles) at completion. The elevated pedestrian pathway looks like a dragon’s back threading down the lush Jinniushan mountain and offers urban dwellers the chance to reconnect with nature and brings attention to one of the city’s quickly diminishing green lungs. Covered in greenery thanks to a sub-tropical climate, Fujian’s capital of Fuzhou is one of China’s greenest cities and is famous for its numerous banyan trees that line the streets. LOOK Architects’ Fuzhou Forest Walkway brings nature closer to the city with an elevated path that covers the full breadth of Jinniushan mountain and offers beautiful views of the canopy , the city, and mountains beyond. The architects described the project as “a signature urban connector network that provides public accessibility to indigenous hinterland stretching north- east of Minjiang. Fudao signifies an awakened consciousness to improve lives of city dwellers by bringing nature within closer reach.” The project also presented the opportunity to open up and redevelop many parts of Jinniushan that had been inaccessible to the general public due to proximity to military camps and burial sites. The new enhancements included a modern columbarium complex constructed to rehouse exhumed graves, the adaptive reuse of an abandoned quarry into a new visitor’s center, and the transformation of an old bus depot Xikezhan into the main entrance that doubles as a food and beverage enclave. The walkway can be accessed via 10 different entrances, each with unique and eye-catching features such as the grand 24-meter-wide spiral ramp at the entrance of the existing Jinniushan indoor sports hall. Built with a gentle gradient, the elevated walkway is punctuated with amenities that include rest shelters, viewing decks, observation towers, and teahouses with bathrooms. The structure is also equipped with WIFI connectivity, touch-screen information boards, and visitor traffic monitors, giving the project the potential to set a new bar for China’s eco-routes. Related: Spiraling treetop walkway gives visitors a bird’s eye view of a Danish forest Environmental conservation is a major priority of the project. The walkway is made up of eight modular components that can be combined in various permutations, each made up of steel grating to allow natural light to pass through. Carefully spaced supporting columns minimize site impact. The Fuzhou Forest Walkway is slated for completion in next year. + LOOK Architects Via ArchDaily Images by Zhou Yue Dong

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Renewable energy generated more power than nuclear for first time since 1984

July 7, 2017 by  
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Nuclear power has dominated alternative energy sources in the United States for decades – that is, until this spring. Statistics recently released by the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed renewable energy surpassed nuclear energy in power generation in March and April of this year. Wind , solar , and hydroelectric power made that feat possible – the first two set records for generation, while hydroelectric generation surged after heavy rainfall in the country’s West. Utility-scale renewable sources generated more power than nuclear energy in the spring of 2017 in America, and it’s the first time they’ve done so since July 1984. According to the EIA, part of the reason for this fact is nuclear power plants often undergo maintenance when electricity demand is lower, like in the spring or fall. But renewable energy is also generating more and more power in the country. Related: The U.S. just generated 10% of its electricity from solar and wind for the first time In March, hydroelectric power generated 30 billion kilowatt-hours, which is the most amount of power from hydroelectric in almost six years. California’s emergence from their drought had a role to play in that – both record precipitation and the snowpack have made the state wetter than it’s been in years, which is great for hydroelectric generation. And with more wind and solar installations, the two sources have been offering record amounts of clean energy . The EIA said between March 2016 and March 2017, wind generation increased by 16 percent, while solar generation spiked by 65 percent. Net generation from nuclear has stayed largely flat since the late 1990s, according to the EIA. Many plants have also been retired. Even so, the EIA doesn’t expect the trend to continue. They said nuclear will probably overtake renewables during this summer, and looking at 2017 as a whole, nuclear power will likely generate more energy than renewables overall. Via the United States Energy Information Administration Images via Louis Moncouyoux on Unsplash and the United States Energy Information Administration

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Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

May 26, 2017 by  
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A previously undetected layer of tectonic plates may offer answers to the mysterious Vityaz earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean . Researchers recently presented their preliminary findings on an additional layer of tectonic plates in Earth’s mantle at a joint meeting of the American Geophysical Union and the Japan Geoscience Union in Tokyo. These plates might have moved into the mantle millions of years ago. Scientists have known for over 50 years that continents slowly move around Earth, and the ocean floor rips apart as they do. Magma from the Earth’s mantle fills these gaps. But when tectonic plates converge, subduction, or the process of one plate edge moving down into the mantle, occurs. Scientist Johnny Wu of the University of Houston shared new evidence of a layer of tectonic plates that long ago subducted into the mantle. Related: Newly discovered link between two faults could lead to a much bigger San Francisco earthquake The recently discovered tectonic plates are in the mantle’s so-called transition zone, around 273 to 410 miles under the surface in the Tonga area. The plates move horizontally nearly as fast as plates do at the surface, and breaks and bends in these newly found plates can lead to earthquakes. Seismology advances helped make the find possible. Scientists are now able to make pictures of the interior of the planet utilizing vibrations from natural earthquakes. Wu put it this way: “Think of Hubble . We look out, and the further we look out the more things we discover, not just about the universe – we’re actually looking back in time. And this new seismology is like turning the Hubble to look into the Earth , because as we look deeper and get clearer images, we can see what the Earth might have looked like further and further back in time.” Another scientist from the University of Houston, one from the China Earthquake Administration , and a fourth from the University of Utah were also part of the research , which was presented at the meeting on Tuesday. The findings haven’t been peer reviewed yet, but could change the way scientists look at plate movement. Via The Guardian Images via YXO on Flickr and Nguyen Tan Tin on Flickr

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Alison Canyon natural gas facility could reopen despite unresolved issues over leak

January 18, 2017 by  
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In a troubling decision , California state regulators could allow the Aliso Canyon natural gas site near Los Angeles to reopen, despite the fact that the cause of 2015’s massive gas leak has never been determined. In October, a pressurized gas well blew out and released a massive plume of natural gas for five months before it was sealed permanently with cement, forcing thousands of nearby residents to evacuate their homes. It’s unclear exactly when the site will reopen, and there are still two public hearings in February before regulators make a final decision. So far, only 34 of the remaining 114 wells on the site have been tested for safety. While those particular wells have passed pressure tests, there are indications that some may have below-ground leaks. The extent of them, however, is unknown. Even more disturbing is the fact that the Santa Susana Fault runs through the gas field, yet seismic testing has yet been completed verifying the safety of the facility in the event of an earthquake . Geologists tapped by the state in December 2016 warned regulators that a significant earthquake is likely to hit the area sometime in the next 50 years. Related: Damage report reveals LA methane leak is one of the worst disasters in US history Despite this, there is some good news: the state is requiring Southern California Gas Co. to take new safety precautions that weren’t in place before the leak. For one thing, the utility is required to monitor wells for leaks now. Regulators are capping the production of the field – while it has a capacity of 83 billion cubic feet, it’s only going to be allowed to operate at 29 billion cubic feet going forward, with surface pressures nearly 20 percent less than what the gas company has requested. While reopening the facility still poses risks, it seems the state is doing what it can to reduce them in the future. Via Los Angeles Times Images via SoCalGas

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