Category Archives: Nature

Destructive ‘afterslip’ followed Napa earthquake


And free books, too

We’ll begin with the free books.

We were once buried in books.

It was at 0136 hours on 3 September 2000 and we were sitting in our recliner in the livingroom of our apartment in Napa California when the lights went out and we were pummeled repeatedly by invisible assailants.

It was a magnitude 5.2 earthquake, and our assailants were books, an avalanche vomited forth by falling and collapsing bookcases.

We’re moving this weekend, and we again are buried in books, too many to carry south to L.A., so every day this week we’re putting lots of them out on the media between sidewalk and street, free for one and all.

The address is 2032 Prince Street in Berkeley [one house south of Shattuck Avenue between the Starry Plow and the Ashby BART station], and subjects range for brain/mind science to history, science, biography, media, and much more.

Fresh offerings daily through Saturday.

And the afterslips from another Napa quake

A map shows the location of the August 24, 2014 earthquake just south of Napa, California. In a new report, scientists from MIT and elsewhere detail how, even after the earthquake’s main tremors and aftershocks died down, earth beneath the surface was still actively shifting and creeping — albeit much more slowly — for at least four weeks after the main event. Image: Gareth Funning/University of California, Riverside

A map shows the location of the August 24, 2014 earthquake just south of Napa, California. In a new report, scientists from MIT and elsewhere detail how, even after the earthquake’s main tremors and aftershocks died down, earth beneath the surface was still actively shifting and creeping — albeit much more slowly — for at least four weeks after the main event.
Image: Gareth Funning/University of California, Riverside

A fascinating story from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

Nearly two years ago, on August 24, 2014, just south of Napa, California, a fault in the Earth suddenly slipped, violently shifting and splitting huge blocks of solid rock, 6 miles below the surface. The underground upheaval generated severe shaking at the surface, lasting 10 to 20 seconds. When the shaking subsided, the magnitude 6.0 earthquake — the largest in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989 — left in its wake crumpled building facades, ruptured water mains, and fractured roadways.

But the earthquake wasn’t quite done. In a new report, scientists from MIT and elsewhere detail how, even after the earthquake’s main tremors and aftershocks died down, earth beneath the surface was still actively shifting and creeping — albeit much more slowly — for at least four weeks after the main event. This postquake activity, which is known to geologists as “afterslip,” caused certain sections of the main fault to shift by as much as 40 centimeters in the month following the main earthquake.

This seismic creep, the scientists say, may have posed additional infrastructure hazards to the region and changed the seismic picture of surrounding faults, easing stress along some faults while increasing pressure along others.

The scientists, led by Michael Floyd, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, found that sections of the main West Napa Fault continued to slip after the primary earthquake, depending on the lithology, or rock type, surrounding the fault. The fault tended to only shift during the main earthquake in places where it ran through solid rock, such as mountains and hills; in places with looser sediments, like mud and sand, the fault continued to slowly creep, for at least four weeks, at a rate of a few centimeters per day.

“We found that after the earthquake, there was a lot of slip that happened at the surface,” Floyd says. “One of the most fascinating things about this phenomenon is it shows you how much hazard remains after the shaking has stopped. If you have infrastructure running across these faults — water pipelines, gas lines, roads, underground electric cables — and if there’s this significant afterslip, those kinds of things could be damaged even after the shaking has stopped.”

There’s lots more, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

Chevron’s malignant legacies in Ecuador, Bay Area


In the second of three programs on the brutal policies of a global oil giant [first part here], Abby Martin looks at the lethal pollution of Ecuador’s land and water by an American oil giant, a bizarre U.S. court ruling made by a judge who owns stock in the company, the the firm’s heavy-handed politics in Richmond, California.

During our six years at the Berkeley Daily Planet, we covered environmental politics in nearby Richmond, one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s poorest communities, and watched as Chevron Texaco fought to control city council elections to ensure that operations at the company’s massive refinery were unhindered by council members’ concerns about dangers to the health and safety of their constituents.

Martin lived nearby and saw firsthand how the company spared no expense in courts and in political and public relations campaigns, and we’re glad that the issue will gain wider exposure through her efforts.

And now, one with the shot.

From teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Chevron vs. the Amazon – The Environmental Trial of the Century

Program files:

In Part II of this three-part series, The Empire Files continues the investigation into the battle between Chevron Texaco and Ecuador.

In this installment, Abby Martin uncovers what really happened throughout the 22-year legal battle between the oil corporation and indigenous Amazonians, interviewing lead attorney for the case, Pablo Fajardo.

This episode also chronicles the shameful, scandalous history of Chevron Texaco—from the support of Hitler’s Nazi movement, to backing war crimes in Myanmar—and its retaliatory attacks against its victims.

Climate change ravages U.S. parks, monuments


The opening a a sobering report from the Guardian:

After a century of shooing away hunters, tending to trails and helping visitors enjoy the wonder of the natural world, the guardians of America’s most treasured places have been handed an almost unimaginable new job – slowing the all-out assault climate change is waging against national parks across the nation.

As the National Parks Service (NPS) has charted the loss of glaciers, sea level rise and increase in wildfires spurred by rising temperatures in recent years, the scale of the threat to US heritage across the 412 national parks and monuments has become starkly apparent.

As the National Parks Service turns 100 this week, their efforts to chart and stem the threat to the country’s history faces a daunting task. America’s grand symbols and painstakingly preserved archaeological sites are at risk of being winnowed away by the crashing waves, wildfires and erosion triggered by warming temperatures.

The Statue of Liberty is at “high exposure” risk from increasingly punishing storms. A national monument dedicated to abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who will be enshrined on a new $20 note, could be eaten away by rising tides in Maryland. The land once walked by Pocahontas and Captain John Smith in Jamestown, the first English settlement in the US, is surrounded by waters rising at twice the global average and may be beyond rescue.

These threats are the latest in a pile of identified calamities to befall national parks and monuments due to climate change. Receding ice, extreme heat and acidifying oceans are morphing America’s landscapes and coasts at a faster pace than at any time in human history.

Time to book your Northwest Passage cruise


Yep, the Northwest Passage, the impossible dream of early European explorers of an Arctic waters shortcut to Asia, is now open.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory:

BLOG Passage

From NASA:

In August 2016, tourists on a luxury cruise departed Seward Alaska and steered toward the waterways of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The excursion is one example of the growing human presence in an increasingly ice-free Northwest Passage—the famed high-latitude sea route that connects the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In mid-August 2016, the southern route through the Passage was nearly ice-free.

For most of the year, the Northwest Passage is frozen and impassible. But during the summer months, the ice melts and breaks up to varying degrees. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured the top image of the Northwest Passage on August 9, 2016. A path of open water can be traced along most of the distance from the Amundsen Gulf to Baffin Bay.

“It was a warm winter and spring,” said NASA sea ice scientist Walt Meier. That means that the seasonal ice—ice that grew since the end of last summer, and the type found throughout most of the Passage—is thinner than normal. Thinner ice can melt more easily, break up, and move out of the channels.

A scattering of broken ice is visible just east of Victoria Island. “It looks pretty thin and disintegrating,” Meier said. “I think an ice-strengthened ship could get through without too much trouble.”

The open water this year flows along the southern route, or “Amundsen route.” It’s not unusual for the southern route to open up to some degree, as it is more protected than the northern route and receives less sea ice directly from the Arctic Ocean.

At some point in almost every summer since 2007, conditions along the southern passage have been fairly open. There have been exceptions; the second image shows the Northwest Passage on August 9, 2013, as observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite. Ice that year was relatively extensive. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the difference.

What’s left of the ice in 2016 is opening up fast. Meier expects that the Northwest Passage will open up completely in the next couple of weeks. Moreover, a strong Arctic cyclone appears to be approaching the archipelago. It could push the ice around and further open up still-blocked channels. Or, it could have the opposite effect and push in ice from the north.

Fish pee’s a key to keeping coral reefs healthy


Yes, you read that right.

Fish urine, especially that of larger fish, plays a critical nutritional role in keeping the globe’s imperiled coral reefs healthy at a time when they are threatened by climate change and ocean acidification.

There’s only one problem: Those same fish are being netted up in growing numbers to feed the planet’s human population, as well as its pets.

From the University of Washington:

Coral reefs wouldn’t be the same without their beautiful fish.

A diversity of colorful, beautifully patterned species lives in tandem with coral reefs around the world, having adapted their appearance, body structure and lifestyle to take refuge in the folds of spiny, spongy, slippery reefs.

Recent studies suggest that coral reefs, however, are just as dependent on these fish for key nutrients that help coral grow. When fish urinate, they release phosphorus into the water. This phosphorus, along with nitrogen excreted as ammonium through the gills of fish, is crucial to the survival and growth of coral reefs.

A new study[open access] appearing Aug. 16 in Nature Communications takes this a step further, finding that in coral reefs where fishing occurs, nearly half of these key nutrients are absent from the ecosystem.

The main reason? Fewer large-bodied and predator fish to pee nutrients into the water, the study found.

“Part of the reason coral reefs work is because animals play a big role in moving nutrients around,” said lead author Jacob Allgeier, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

“Fish hold a large proportion, if not most of the nutrients in a coral reef in their tissue, and they’re also in charge of recycling them. If you take the big fish out, you’re removing all of those nutrients from the ecosystem.”

Paper co-authors Abel Valdivia at the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco and Courtney Cox at Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce, Florida, surveyed 143 fish species at 110 sites across 43 Caribbean coral reefs that varied in the amount of fishing pressure sustained — ranging from marine preserves that banned all fishing to heavily fished reefs where large predator fish are almost gone.

The researchers found that reefs with more large, predator fish had healthy levels of nutrients, while reefs depleted of large fish had nearly 50 percent fewer nutrients, including phosphorous and nitrogen, essential to their survival.

Lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

ChevronTexaco’s deadly Ecuadorian legacy


During our years reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet, we wrote any number of stories about the Chevron refinery in nearby Richmond on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

As the dominant economic power in a city on of the region’s poorest city, one with a large minority population and in a state of economic implosion, the company was the target of considerable community concerns about fires [they had ‘em] and pollution.

The firm was represented by Willie Brown, the former powerful speaker of the lower house of the legislature of the richest and most populous state in the country, the same Willie Brown casino developers hired to sell the black population of Atlantic City on the ballot measure that legalized casinos there. Willie promised them jobs and good housing; they got neither.

Sophisticated at public relations and press-spinning, Chevron played a dominant role in funding city council elections and turning out supporters, sometimes financed by contributions to churches and other organizations, to ensure their messages got across at city council meetings.

But Richmond’s concerns pale compared to those experienced by thousands of Ecuadorians, the subject of former Bay Area journalist Abby Martin’s latest episode of her series for teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Chevron vs. the Amazon – Inside the Killzone

Program notes:

A U.S. court just handed another victory to the oil giant Chevron Texaco, in its decades-long battle to avoid paying damages it owes in one of the worst environmental disasters in history. In the Ecuadorean Amazon, the most biodiverse area of the world, the energy titan deliberately poisoned 5 million acres of pristine habitat and subjected tens of thousands of indigenous peoples to destruction of their health and culture. In Part 1 of ‘Chevron vs. the Amazon,’ Abby Martin takes The Empire Files inside Chevron Texaco’s Amazon killzone to see the areas deemed “remediated” by Chevron, and spoke with the people living in the aftermath.

Map of the day II: Global Vegetation Health Index


From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Drought Information System:

BLOG Veg