The recent earthquake in Haiti and its subsequent aftershocks have been
reported about on the news nonstop for days. The devastation is in the
untold millions of dollars, and the casualties may dwarf even
the October 8th 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, which claimed more than
40,000 lives, even though it was recorded as a 7.6 magnitude quake, as
opposed to Haiti’s quake’s 7.0 rating. And since the initial seismic
event, over twenty aftershocks have been recorded in the Haiti Region
according to the USGS (United States Geological Survey), with an
average magnitude of 5.3, still enough to cause significant structural
damage to buildings.
But some geologists are speculating that the worst is yet to come.
to the USGS, over the past four years, the number of quakes has
consistently risen significantly. Even more troubling, the number of
quakes so far in 2010 have exceeded expectations in magnitude, depth,
does this mean? Could pressures be building up beneath the earth’s
crust? Could seismic activity be leading to a “big one”, as some
scientists have warned the public about for years? The “big one”, or
“megaquake” is a theoretical seismic event in which an earthquake of
magnitude 9 or more will occur on the West Coast. Such an earthquake
would cause untold devastation, crippling the United States economy and
infrastructure and leaving hundreds of thousands dead, wounded, or
homeless. And what was once seen as an amusing legend amongst
geologists is now being seen as a grim inevitability by many.
to the geologists, there is a 15% chance that within the next few
decades, the megaquake could hit. And while that seems statistically
low, that percentage has risen gradually from a mere 8% in 2000.
this sudden jump in the number of quakes seems to indicate building
pressures beneath the earth’s crust. The mean magnitude for a smaller
quake, or “tremor” is usually a paltry 1.5. However, this has jumped up
to 2.0 in the last four years. And there have been more frequent bigger
quakes. Could this mean the the megaquake will come sooner than we
geologists say yes, but the USGS has taken a distinctly undecided stance.
One explanation for the increased number of quakes recorded is not that
the quakes have become more frequent themselves, but that instead more
quakes are being recorded, thanks to the advancement of geological
devices and wider areas being surveyed.
when looking at the devastation in Haiti, few can deny the power of the
earth. Native American lore in the Oregon area has long held that a great earthquake will come to destroy the world. And as 2010 continues, the day of the Megaquake could be drawing inexorably closer.