Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Can China's Future Earthquakes Be Predicted?

Can China's Future Earthquakes Be Predicted?

ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2008)Ji ShaoCheng of the Université de Montréal's affiliated engineering school École Polytechnique is part of a team studying last May's devastating earthquake in China.

On May 12, 2008, at 2:28 p.m., China's Szechwan province changed forever. In the space of 90 seconds, an earthquake equivalent to 1,200 H-bombs pulverized the earth's crust for more than 280 kilometers. Entire cities disappeared and eight million homes were swallowed up. This resulted in 70,000 deaths and 20,000 missing.

Two months later, ShaoCheng arrived in Szechwan province to study the damage first hand. The extent of the damage was unimaginable: roads and bridges collapsed, schools turned into rubble, and bodies of men and women everywhere.

According to ShaoCheng this tragedy could have been avoided. "There hasn't been one earthquake in Szechwan province for 300 years. Chinese authorities thought the fault was dead," he says.

The problem is that China relied on GPS data, which showed movements of 2 mm per year in certain areas when in reality the shifts were much bigger. "GPS is high-tech, but do we really know how to interpret its data?," he questions.

ShaoCheng was recruited by one of his ex-colleagues with whom he completed his PhD in Montpellier and who now works for the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences. His mission is to dig three narrow wells, 3-kilometers deep, into the earth's crust for a whopping $75 million.

"The drilling will allow us to see the characteristics of the rocks before and after the earthquake. We will also measure their thermal properties and fluid pressure," says ShaoCheng. "One of these wells will have a seismometer and another will be equipped with a device similar to a stethoscope designed to listen to the earth's heartbeat."

It is expected to take five years of hard labour to rebuild the devastated region.


Local Meteorologist Wins Big Award

Meteorologist Mark W. Rose was awarded the 2008 National Weather Association Public Education Award at the Annual Conference in Louisville in October. Mark is a meteorologist at the NOAA/National Weather Service Forecast Office here in Birmingham.

Mark was chosen for the award for the design, development and marketing of a nationally recognized weather safety DVD called “Surviving the Storm.” The program is geared to elementary school children and focuses on severe weather safety as well as the role of the National Weather Service.

Speaking to school groups is a critical part of the weather community’s outreach to the public about weather safety. Our very own James Spann is a leader in this area, speaking in a different school almost every day. Mark was frequently asked to speak in schools about severe weather. Of course, there are lots of schools and little time, which is frustrating.

His answer was to develop “Surviving the Storm.” He secured sponsor dollars to produce the DVD. Knowing that quality would be a key concern, he hired a professional company to do the production.

Distribution would be key. Mark contacted the Alabama Department of Education to get the DVD into schools. The state Emergency Management Agency came up with the money to duplicate the 1,000 or so DVDs that would be required. As a result, every school administrator at every public and private school in Alabama has the video.

Other organizations have contacted Mark about the video, including the National Weather Service in Memphis. The team there sent it out to all of its emergency managers. Other state Emergency Management Agencies have expressed interest in using the DVD, including Oklahoma. They called this week.

Mark, like most of us, has held a fascination with weather since childhood. The most interesting weather phenomenon to him is the thunderstorm.

He is a 22 year veteran of NOAA’s National Weather Service. He started as an intern at the NWS in Mobile. He transferred to the NWS Birmingham in 1989. He and his family live in Vestavia Hills. His wife works as the Curator for the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. Their son is a freshman at Samford and their daughter is a high school junior. He is the President of the local National Weather Association chapter.


Skippers responsible for safety checks

25/11/2008 9:18:38

Boaties are being reminded to carry out simple safety checks before heading out onto the water in the wake of the tragedy which saw two children drown last year.

Auckland father Lindsay Rowles has been sentenced to 250 hours of community service after pleading guilty to operating a vessel causing unnecessary risk or danger.

Rowles' two children, eight-year-old Erina and five-year-old Travis drowned near Shag Island in the Hauraki Gulf when the aluminium boat they were asleep in started taking on water because a bung was not in place. The adults on board were unable to get the children out of the cabin when the boat hit rocks and quickly sank.

Jim Lott from Maritime New Zealand says the agency will again be reinforcing its national safety strategy this summer. He is reminding boaties to always wear life jackets and inform others straight away when difficulty arises. Mr Lott believes about 70 percent of all fatalities on the water could be prevented if those points were adhered to.

Mr Lott says at the end of the day it is the skippers' responsibility to ensure the safety of passengers and crew.