A potent threat of major earthquake off California’s northern coast

Crescent City Earthquake Warning

A man rides his bicycle in 2004 in Crescent City, where a 1964 earthquake spawned a deadly tsunami.
http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-triple-junction-quakes-20140312,0,2124861.story#ixzz2vuMIBNgr

Risk of a monster quake and tsunami off California’s North Coast is greater than researchers once thought.

If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California’s sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect.

A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish.

Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

GRAPHIC: How a 9.0 megaquake devastates California’s North Coast, Ore., and Wash.

The Cascadia subduction zone is less known than the San Andreas fault, which scientists have long predicted will produce The Big One. But in recent years, scientists have come to believe that the Cascadia is far more dangerous than originally believed and have been giving the system more attention.

The Cascadia begins at a geologically treacherous area where three tectonic plates are pushing against each other. The intersection has produced the two largest earthquakes in California in the last decade — Sunday’s 6.8 temblor off Eureka and a 7.2 quake off Crescent City in 2005. The area has produced six quakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater in the last 100 years, the California Geological Survey said.

Officials in Northern California as well as Oregon and Washington are beginning to address the dangers.

DOCUMENT: The damage a 9.0 quake could do to the coast

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tsunami researchers are testing a new generation of tsunami detectors off the Oregon coast, which could provide earlier warnings about the incoming wave’s size.

During the 2011 Japan tsunami, some of the first detailed alerts underestimated the size of the tsunami to be lower than the sea walls — and then communications were cut off.

“So some people had a false sense of security,” said Vasily Titov, director of NOAA’s Center for Tsunami Research. “You want to have this information as accurate as possible.”

Installing tsunami sensors on the deep ocean floor would provide better information on the tsunami’s size in as little as five minutes. It now takes about half an hour.

Titov said two underwater test sensors off the Oregon coast seemed to perform well in Sunday’s earthquake, though the quake did not produce a tsunami.

In Grays Harbor County in Washington state, crews will begin building an elementary school gym this summer to double as a “vertical evacuation center” — built so that 1,000 people can flee to the roof during a tsunami, protected by a high wall.

“We have no natural high ground,” said Ocosta School District Supt. Paula Akerlund. “So we have to evacuate vertically.”

Washington state and federal officials have also been discussing building about 50 “tsunami safe havens,” such as artificial hills that could hold as many as 800 people.

The 2011 Japan tsunami as well as other natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have fueled efforts to better prepare for a major quake on the Cascadia fault.

“Katrina was a worst case scenario for hurricanes in the gulf. And a Cascadia would be the worst case scenario for tsunamis on the West Coast,” said Paul Whitmore, director of the National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska.

For years, scientists believed the largest earthquake the area could produce was magnitude 7.5. But scientists now say the Cascadia was the site of a magnitude 9 earthquake more than 300 years ago.

Ripping over a fault that stretches in the Pacific Ocean from the coast of Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, the quake on the evening of Jan. 26, 1700, was so powerful, entire sections of the Pacific coastline dropped by as much as 5 feet, allowing the ocean to rush in and leave behind dead trees by the shore.

In drought-stricken California, court rules smelt fish get water

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A California appeals court sided with environmentalists over growers on Thursday and upheld federal guidelines that limit water diversions to protect Delta smelt, in a battle over how the state will cope with its worst drought in a century.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court should not have overturned recommendations that the state reduce exports of water from north to south California. The plan leaves more water in the Sacramento Delta for the finger-sized fish and have been blamed for exacerbating the effects of drought for humans.

Reaction from both sides was swift in the national political issue. In a blog post, Damien Schiff, an attorney for growers, said the ruling “bodes ill for farmers, farm laborers and millions of other Californians dependent on a reliable water supply.”

Efforts to save the Delta smelt, which lives only in the wetlands stretching north of San Francisco, have been described as a humans versus fish battle.

Kate Poole, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said growers’ hopes of taking more water out of the Delta wouldn’t solve California’s problems.

“It’s the drought, not the Delta, that’s affecting the water supply this year,” Poole said in a statement. “While we can’t make it rain, we can take charge of our water use by investing in smart water practices that protect and preserve our water supply.”

At issue is a 2008 report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which concluded that the fish’s existence was threatened and recommended limited exports of water to farmers and southern California. Farmers and allies sued, and a lower court called the federal biological opinion “arbitrary and capricious.”

However, in the opinion on Thursday, 9th Circuit Judge Jay Bybee ruled that the lower court should have been more deferential to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bybee, an appointee of President George W. Bush, is considered a consistent conservative voice on the 9th Circuit.

“We recognize the enormous practical implications of this decision,” Bybee wrote. “But the consequences were prescribed when Congress determined that ‘these species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people.'”

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which represented wildlife regulators, said it was pleased with the ruling.

Paul Weiland, an attorney who represented Kern County Water Agency and a coalition of Central Valley water users in the case, said he hopes the ruling will clear the way for all sides to come together and make progress on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

The plan seeks to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystems and secure California water supplies into the future. A draft of the plan is currently open for public comment.

“While these cases are pending it is difficult for the parties to make concessions,” he said. “To the extent that this hits the reset button, it works to everyone’s advantage in the sense that the parties don’t have to be sticking to their litigation positions anymore.”

That progress could be delayed if one or more of the parties in the case ask the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear the case or ask for a Supreme Court review, Weiland said.

Thursday’s ruling could also pave the way for a ruling in a pending case involving the water needs of wild salmon and steelhead trout in the state, which involves many of the same players. A February hearing on that case was postponed until after the Delta smelt decision was handed down.

The Delta smelt case in the 9th Circuit is San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority et al. vs. Sally Jewell et al., 11-15871.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Additional reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Stephen Powell, Peter Henderson and Richard Chang)

Magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck Kyushu, Japan

Earthquake registered as M 6.1 (JMA) struck Kyushu, Japan on March 13, 2014 at 17:07 UTC (02:07 JST on March 14). JMA is reporting depth of 80 km. USGS is reporting M 6.3 at depth of 82.9 km (51.5 miles).

Epicenter was located 13 km (8 miles) N of Kunisaki-shi and 30 km (19 miles) ENE of Bungo-Takada-shi, Japan. This earthquake poses no tsunami risk.

GDACS estimated there are 5 813 056 people living within 100 km radius.

Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are resistant to earthquake shaking, though some vulnerable structures exist.

Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as landslides, fires, and liquefaction that might have contributed to losses.

Population map close up….

Troubled waters: Nuclear radiation found in British Columbia may pose health concerns

Vancouver British Columbia Radiation

Chum salmon, such as these, spawned out next to Kilby Provincial Park on the Harrison River, are being tested for evidence of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan.

Discovery of Fukushima radioactivity raises concerns for local marine life, and the effect it may have on humans

A radioactive metal from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan has been discovered in the Fraser Valley, causing researchers to raise the alarm about the long-term impact of radiation on B.C.’s west coast.

Examination of a soil sample from Kilby Provincial Park, near Agassiz, has for the first time in this province found Cesium 134, further evidence of Fukushima radioactivity being transported to Canada by air and water.

“That was a surprise,” said Juan Jose Alava, an adjunct professor in the school of resource and environmental management at Simon Fraser University, in an interview on Tuesday. “It means there are still emissions … and trans-Pacific air pollution. It’s a concern to us. This is an international issue.”

Cesium 134 has a half-life of two years, meaning its radioactivity is reduced by half during that time. Its presence in the environment is an indication of continuing contamination from Fukushima.

A more persistent danger to people and marine life is radioactive Cesium 137, which has a half-life of 30 years, and bioaccumulates in the food chain.

Researchers developed a model based on the diet of fish-eating killer whales along with the levels of Cesium 137 detected and predicted (less than 0.5 becquerels per cubic metre, a measurement of radioactivity) by other researchers in the Pacific waters offshore of Vancouver Island.

The models suggests that in 30 years, Cesium 137 levels in the whales will exceed the Canadian guideline of 1,000 becquerels per kilogram for consumption of seafood by humans — 10 times the Japanese guideline.

“It’s a reference, the only benchmark we have to compare against,” Alava said.

He said recent federal government cutbacks have placed a greater burden of testing and monitoring for aquatic impacts on academics, non-governmental organizations and even private citizens.

“The Canadian government is the one that should be doing something, should be taking action to keep monitoring to see how these contaminants are behaving, what are the levels, and what is next.”

It was a citizen, Aki Sano, who provided SFU with the soil sample from Kilby park, near the mouth of the Harrison River, on Nov. 16, 2013. Samples of chinook, sockeye and chum spawning salmon nearby are also being analyzed for evidence of radiation.

While the soil sample tested positive for Cesium 134, the exact level is not yet known, although it is thought to be low. The plan now is to test soil samples from Burnaby Mountain, closer to Vancouver.

Earlier research by Kris Starosta, associate professor of chemistry, and his colleagues at SFU has shown evidence of Iodine 131, which has a half-life of eight days, in rainwater and seaweeds in B.C. Fisheries and Oceans Canada conducted the analysis of sea water off Vancouver Island.

An adult killer whale weighing up to 5,000 kilograms can eat five per cent of its body weight, or 250 kilograms of fish, per day.

Endangered resident killer whales already face a host of challenges: the need for high-protein chinook salmon, habitat degradation, underwater noise pollution, harassment from whale watchers, and climate change. While the additional impact of Cesium 137 is unknown, it may negatively affect the immune system or endocrine system, Alava said.

Original Article here http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Toxic+waters+Nuclear+radiation+found+pose+health+concerns/9606269/story.html

Attention coders: $35,000 contest to develop improved algorithms for detection of asteroids

NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series will offer $35,000 in awards over the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.

The first contest in the series will kick off on March 17. Prior to the kick off, competitors can create an account on the contest series website and learn more about the rules and different phases of the contest series by going to: http://bit.ly/AsteroidHunters

Managed by the NASA Tournament Lab, the entire contest series runs through August and is the first contest series contributing to the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.

“For the past three years, NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills…