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Chilean earthquake

Monitoring the Chile situation: Note that the huge earthquake in Chile comes 50 years after the 9.5-magnitude quake that spawned a killer tsunami that reached Japan. The wave, according to this web site, was 10.7 meters when it hit the city of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii (see this story). It took about 15 hours to get there. This morning's quake was at 1:34 a.m. EST, so do the math.

From the Honolulu Advertiser:

A tsunami of unknown height is expected to hit the Big Island at 11:19 a.m.

The estimated arrival time for Honolulu is 11:25 a.m.

Shelly Ichishita, state Civil Defense spokeswoman, said early reports indicate that the tsunami "could possibly be about two meters high in Hilo."

But she stressed those reports are preliminary.

As of 1:48 a.m. Hawaii time, the warning remained in effect. Barry Hirshon of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center told CNN some areas of Hawaii likely could see a 10 to 15 foot rise. After the initial wave, the event could generate "many, many waves" and last "at least six hours," he said.


More here.

From NOAA:

A TSUNAMI HAS BEEN GENERATED THAT COULD CAUSE DAMAGE ALONG
COASTLINES OF ALL ISLANDS IN THE STATE OF HAWAII. URGENT ACTION
SHOULD BE TAKEN TO PROTECT LIVES AND PROPERTY.

A TSUNAMI IS A SERIES OF LONG OCEAN WAVES. EACH INDIVIDUAL WAVE
CREST CAN LAST 5 TO 15 MINUTES OR MORE AND EXTENSIVELY FLOOD
COASTAL AREAS. THE DANGER CAN CONTINUE FOR MANY HOURS AFTER THE
INITIAL WAVE AS SUBSEQUENT WAVES ARRIVE. TSUNAMI WAVE HEIGHTS
CANNOT BE PREDICTED AND THE FIRST WAVE MAY NOT BE THE LARGEST.
TSUNAMI WAVES EFFICIENTLY WRAP AROUND ISLANDS. ALL SHORES ARE AT
RISK NO MATTER WHICH DIRECTION THEY FACE. THE TROUGH OF A TSUNAMI
WAVE MAY TEMPORARILY EXPOSE THE SEAFLOOR BUT THE AREA WILL
QUICKLY FLOOD AGAIN. EXTREMELY STRONG AND UNUSUAL NEARSHORE
CURRENTS CAN ACCOMPANY A TSUNAMI. DEBRIS PICKED UP AND CARRIED
BY A TSUNAMI AMPLIFIES ITS DESTRUCTIVE POWER. SIMULTANEOUS HIGH
TIDES OR HIGH SURF CAN SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE THE TSUNAMI HAZARD.

Update: The Honolulu Advertiser reports that a wave 6 to 8 feet high in bays is expected, but smaller along coastlines. Given that this is not as large an earthquake as 1960 it doesn't seem likely that it is going to be a repeat of the event that leveled Hilo. But they key, as always, is the warning. The Asian tsunami hit Sumatra and Thailand with essentially no warning -- other than the warning of the earthquake itself. Without a high-tech system of alarms and warnings like they have in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean countries were more vulnerable. And they had little cultural memory of anything like it happening. So when the ocean receded in advance of the wave, many people walked out to see what was happening.

Update: Chile sits along a subduction zone where the Nazca plate dives beneath the South American plate. So it's constantly rocked by huge tremors. Remember that Haiti hadn't been hit with a major quake in 240 years. In Chile, this is life. From CNN:

"Coastal Chile has a history of deadly earthquakes, according to the USGS. Since 1973, there have been 13 quakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher.

"Saturday's epicenter was just a few miles north of the largest earthquake recorded in the world: a magnitude 9.5 quake in May 1960 that killed 1,655 and unleashed a tsunami that crossed the Pacific."

[I'll post a new kit soon...]

By Joel Achenbach  |  February 27, 2010; 7:44 AM ET
 
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Next: Chile earthquake: The next Big One?

Comments

The 1960 earthquake was a whopping 9.5 I believe.
Our man in Santiago should check in when he can.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 27, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Yep, 9.5
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1960_Valdivia_earthquake

What a nice name for an horror.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | February 27, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Yeah it's 9.5 on Wikipedia and I'd always heard that, that it was the largest ever. Though you get up into that range and I wonder how precise the numbers are.

Posted by: joelache | February 27, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

From the A-blog archives:

Family member Rev. Titus Coan began preaching in 1835 on the east coast of the island of Hawaii, at a church in Hilo. (Rev. Elisha Loomis and his pregnant wife were in the first group of missionaries to set foot on Hawaii, arriving on March 30, 1820.) After setting himself the punishing task of talking to every native in the parish, Coan still had only 80 converts by mid-1837.

Coan was hoping for a clear sign from God to increase his church's numbers. It came with devastating force. "On the 7th of November, 1837, at the hour of evening prayers," he wrote, "we were startled by a heavy thud, and a sudden jar of the earth. The sound was like the fall of some vast body on the beach, and in a few seconds, a noise of mingled voices rising for a mile along the shore thrilled us like the wail of doom...The sea, moved by an unseen hand, had all of a sudden risen in a gigantic wave, and this wave, rushing in with the speed of a racehorse, had fallen upon the shore, sweeping everything not more than 15 or 20 feet above high-water mark into indiscriminate ruin. Houses, furniture, calabashes, fuel, timber, canoes, food, clothing, everything floated wild upon the flood...The harbor was full of strugglers calling for help, while frantic parents and children, wives and husbands ran to and fro along the beach, calling for their lost ones. As wave after wave came in and retired, the struglers were brought near the shore, where the more vigorous landed with desperate efforts, and the weaker and exhausted were carried back upon the retreating wave, some to sink and rise no more till the noise of jugment wakes them...Had this catastrophe occurred at midnight when all were asleep, hundreds of lives would undoubtedly have been lost. Through the great mercy of God, only 13 were drowned.

"The Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands," Gavan Daws, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1968, pp. 99-102.

Posted by: Loomis | October 17, 2006 9:50 AM

Posted by: laloomis | February 27, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Also from the A-blog archive for Oct. 17, 2006:

SCC: The web has offered up that the 1837 Hawaii tsunami was caused by an earthquake in Chile.

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/states/hawaii/history.php

In 1837 an earthquake in Chile sent waves 20 feet high against Hilo, Hawaii. Initially the sea receded and several were drowned by the returning wave while they were attempting to collect fish stranded on the exposed sea bottom. In all, 62 people were killed and over a hundred homes were destroyed.

Nature mag also has an article that I can't access because I'm not a subscriber [Science Tim was hugely helpful to me on Oct. 17, 2006, by providing access to the article in Nature magazine.] :

A tsunami was associated with the event of 1837, reaching Hawaii with an amplitude of 6 m. But Cisternas et al. suggest that it originated outside their ...

www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7057/full/437329a.html

Posted by: Loomis | October 17, 2006 10:02 AM

Posted by: laloomis | February 27, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Earthquake magnitudes are not precise at all. The magnitude scale was invented as a way to deal with news reporters who wanted the appearance of a concise and valuable answer. Oddly, it has actually become such a thing.

Posted by: ScienceTim | February 27, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Brits are up early this morning *w* and have compiled a list of the biggest earthquakes in history:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/27/biggest-earthquakes

Allow me to help the Brits and put the ones that originated in Chile in better date order:

8 July 1730: A magnitude-8.7 quake in Valparasio, Chile, killed at least 3,000 people.

7 November 1837: A magnitude-8.5 magnitude quake in Valdivia, Chile, generated a tsunami that killed at least 58 people in Hawaii. ("Loomis-descendant Titus Coan's Hawaiian tsunami")

13 August 1868: A magnitude-9.0 quake in Arica, Peru, (now Chile) generated catastrophic tsunamis; more than 25,000 people were killed in South America.

11 November 1922: A magnitude-8.5 quake on the Chile-Argentina border killed several hundred people.

22 May 1960: A magnitude-9.5 earthquake in southern Chile and the ensuing tsunami killed at least 1,716 people.
***

All of these were 8.5 on the Richter scale and above.

Also, wasn't Dooley in Chile, with his team of students paleontologists, when a smaller quake hit there?

Posted by: laloomis | February 27, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Thnaks, Tim, for keepin' em honest.

Posted by: laloomis | February 27, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Here's the thing people need to keep in mind. Earthquake magnitudes are measured in a logarithmic scale.

This means that when the magnitude goes up by 1, the amplitude of the waves created goes up by a factor of 10, and the destructive potential (which is associated with the square of the amplitude) goes up by a factor of 31.

So a magnitude 8 can produce up to 31 times as much damage as a magnitude 7.

Of course, as Joel reported before, the actual damage is a function of the buildings, the type of soil, and the actual location.

And this one, clearly, was a beast.

Now, in addition, of course, to my horror at the devastation of this quake, it scares me a bit that we have had two such big shocks in a short period of time.

Modern geological theory talks about how events all across the globe are linked. I just hope this doesn't suggest that there are more monster quakes bunched up in the queue.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 27, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

In modern times magnitude scales are derived from data measured at seismographs around the globe. While historical earthquakes magnitudes are clearly estimated, modern earthquake magnitudes are not. It is the actual degree of devastation that is hard to quantify.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 27, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse


I have been through several small earthquakes and can now tell the approximate magnitude and distance by the type of shaking. I cannot imagine being in or near an 8.8. It is quite disconcerting seeing the ground move like the ocean in a small quake. Getting knocked down and having to ride those heavy seas for close to a full minute that an 8.8 would last would be horrifying.

Posted by: edbyronadams | February 27, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Mr. T and I went to Hilo on our honeymoon and ate lunch in a lovely little cafe on the bayfront. The first street and the buildings that fronted it, including the cafe, were a quarter of a mile from the beach and had a nice view of the water. After the destruction in 1960, no development was allowed any closer than that. That was wise.

We actually stayed in Kona and had a convertible with which to explore the Big Island. It was a great way to enjoy the place.

Yes, I hope our man in Santiago will check in and let us know he is okay.

Posted by: slyness | February 27, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The program Pinky Dinky Doo was interrupted this morning on our local Channel 8 to broadcast Spanish-language television quake coverage, "Terremoto en Chile." (Earthquake in Chile).

Here's what I gather so far (admittedly, my Spanish is a tad rusty):

Currently the death toll stands at 78, but is expected to rise. Damage, as to be expected, high in the cities of Concepcion and Santiago (where the television cameras are most likely to first be.)

Three hospitals have collapsed in the country's southern area.

An evacuation order has been issued for the Gallapagos Islands.
***

The pictures now convey so much of the story: damaged autos, a truck falling into the hole in the ground, large cracks in the earth--in some spots fissuring bricked streets, falling brick facades, poorly built structures pancaked, floors in high-rise buildings collapsed.

Posted by: laloomis | February 27, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Also, the Spanish-language broadcast is repeating the tsunami warnings we should all be familiar with in the last hours or so, the warnings fanning across the Pacific and the shores of certain parts of North America.

Posted by: laloomis | February 27, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

So that means the wave will hit Hawaii at 4:19 PM EST. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for MiddleofthePacific and everyone else out there.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 27, 2010 9:23 AM | Report abuse

This graphic here talks about the travel times.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/02/tsunami_warning_in_effect_in_h.html

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 27, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for the link, Mr. A.

Typo alert, Mr. A.
In the first Update section you write, "But they key, as always, is the warning." It makes more sense to me reading it as "the key."

But I haven't gotten to the kitchen yet, where warm muffins, coffee and OJ await us all. It may read just fine as is upon my return.

Posted by: MsJS | February 27, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

laloomis, Pinky Dinky Doo? Please say you were channel surfing.

Of course, SpongeBob has something for the adults (the character Sandy Cheeks lives in the town of Bikini Bottom). And the Phineas and Ferb with Evander Holyfield cracked me up. But I have a small child....

Posted by: LostInThought | February 27, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I add my good wishes and prayers to those affected by the quake and those in the path of the tsunami. Is it just me or has the past few months brought a lot of quake and weather oddities? Not that quakes aren't to be expected, but so many and so strong? I'm with RD, this is scary.

We're off to Maine for the day, the weather is all over the place here, from sun to rain to snow. There was a lot of destruction from the high winds the other night in northern MA and NH and a privately owned damn SW of here is going to be purposely breached next week as it has been a trouble spot for years.

Posted by: badsneakers | February 27, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

New Kit

Posted by: Yoki | February 27, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Relating more to earlier kits, there is this.
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/26/AR2010022601486.html

Rice farmers in Haiti are being undercut by donated rice. Helping hands can damage the ability of those receiving aid to stand on their own.

Posted by: edbyronadams | February 27, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I was channel surfing, to the limited extent possible, to find quake coverage since we're on an austerity budget of sorts and no longer get CNN and other 24-hour cable news fare. We subscribe to the most basic of cable TV services. *long story, issues*

Here's what I gather while eating breakfast with the sound off (for meal peace) and the images on, courtesy of the Spanish-language broadcast.

Presidenta Batchelet was already up in the air this morning surveying damage to her quake-stricken county.

Apparently (again, Spanish slightly rusty) it was Ecuador that issued the evacuation order for the Galapagos Islands.

There are now better pictures of the quake damage with the full light of day. These images now show the extensive damage to one of the hospitals in the southern part of Chile. There is extensive damage to one of the bridges in Chile crossing a large river. Somne huge grain silos are crumpled, as though the Jolly Green Giant squeezed them with one of his powerful hands. Large piles of spilled grain where the silos collapsed.

How will Hillary's upcoming trip to Latin America fare?

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/02/26/clinton.latin.america.trip/?hpt=Sbin

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit five Latin American nations next week, seeking to foster relationships with some newly elected leaders and cement ties with others. ...

Clinton will bid farewell to President Michelle Bachelet, Chile's popular leader who will be leaving with high approval ratings for steering her country through the global economic downturn and promoting progressive social reforms. Under Chile's constitutional term limits, a president cannot run for a second consecutive term.

Posted by: laloomis | February 27, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse


Joel, I think that the Chile events in recent hours make your very recent article on Megalopolis and Tectonics very prescient indeed.

Go re-read the comments section, your own prescience wasn't alone.

As in, "we all had a baaaaad feeling about this".

Posted by: thardman | February 27, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

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