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Earthquakes: Are We Due For A Big One?

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND – SEPTEMBER 04: Cracks are seen in the earth after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck 30km west of the city at 4:35 am this morning September 4, 2010 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Civil Defence have declared a state of emergency and there has been considerable damage across the city and surrounding areas. (Photo by Joseph Johnson/Getty Images)

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Early Sunday night my wife and I were awakened by one of our dogs barking and whining. This is a very rare occurrence. Our only explanation that made sense was that she was barking and carrying on at the exact time of the 6.0 earthquake hitting California.

I know how that sounds, a dog feeling an earthquake more than 2,000 miles away? But as we all know, animals can sense, feel and hear things human beings can’t. Since she has never done this before I’m confidant she will let me know when Yellowstone is ready to blow.

I mentioned above that Sunday’s early morning quake was a 6.0 on the Richter Scale. What exactly does 6.0 mean and who came up with that kind of measurement?

The Richter Scale

In 1935, Charles Francis Richter, a seismologist, along with Beno Gutenberg, developed a method of measuring the magnitude of an earthquake using a Wood-Anderson torsion seismograph.

What that means is, and I quote, The Richter magnitude scale (also Richter scale) assigns a magnitude number to quantify the energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale, which defines magnitude as the logarithm of the ratio of the amplitude of the seismic waves to an arbitrary, minor amplitude.”

Did you get all that?

In layman’s terms it simply means that when an earthquake occurs massive amounts of energy are released when portions of the earth move. The Richter Scale measures the level of energy released.

How Does The Number 6.0 mean?

Here are some examples of what to expect at the various Richter Scale levels

  • Anything less than a 4.3 will not cause any damage and may not even be felt.
  • A 4.4 to a 4.8 can topple unstable objects and knock dishes and glasses off shelves.
  • A 4.9 to 5.4 can crack weak masonry, move some furniture, and possibly break windows.
  • When you get to 5.4 to 6.1, as in California, severe structural damage can occur.
  • A 6.6 to 6.9 is where you will see the ground crack and underground pipes can break causing fire damage.
  • A 7.0 to 7.3 gets very serious. Bridges, wooden structure homes and most masonry buildings and foundations would be destroyed. The energy released here could heat New York City for a year and would be felt around the world.
  • A 7.4 to 8.1 will leave virtually no buildings standing. Most bridges along with underground pipelines would be completely destroyed.
  • Anything greater than 8.1 would be almost total destruction. This is what San Francisco experienced in 1906 that completely destroyed the city.
  • A 9.0 would produce the power of 40 trillion pounds of dynamite. The damage could be world ending.

Some Final Thoughts

Having lived in Southern California for 13 years I am no stranger to earthquakes. Most just shake the house a little but every now and then, as in California yesterday, they can be pretty scary.

If you ever find yourself experiencing and earthquake there is not much you can do other than hang on until it’s over. Duck and cover is the term most often used and that simply means try to find a place to protect you from falling objects.

You need to protect your head, neck and spine. Any damage to those can greatly reduce your chances of survival. When it comes to weapons of mass destruction, Mother Nature has no equal.

Read or Subscribe to all Tom Egelhoff’s Daily Blog Posts by Clicking Here

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