Tag Archives: Plate tectonics

Is The Earth Moving?

The Modern Survival Blog has made an interesting observation; it seems like the one of the earth’s seven major   tectonic plates are moving! As we have pointed out separately – both here at the Econotwist’s and at MSB – something strange is going on deep down in the planet’s lithosphere. One thing seems clear; there are major forces at work.

“Just seven hours after the 6.7 earthquake, a magnitude 6.9 struck at New Britain Region, Papua New Guinea, some 4,600 miles away on the other side of the “Pacific Ring Of Fire” – the Pacific tectonic plate.”

Modern Survival Blog

As the graphic above illustrates; it seems like one of the tectonic plates that covers the planet is about to make a move. A record numbers of earthquakes have been recorded this year, and some of them unusual strong. At the Modern Survival Blog they’ve started chartering the earthquakes. The pattern it shows, is stunning!

What’s going on at the Pacific tectonic plate?

Yesterday a strong earthquake shook at Fox Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, was followed by a swarm of earthquakes.

The Modern Survival Blog has looked at the number of earthquakes in the region of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, going back about a month, and writes:

“It looks like on average there has been about one relatively small earthquake every three days, more or less, with the occasional two earthquakes in a day. That is until 18-July when a strong magnitude 6.7 struck the region. Since then there have been many numerous after shocks, many of which are impressive in magnitude, as high as 5.8 as of this post.”

“What makes this even more interesting is that just seven hours after the 6.7 earthquake, a magnitude 6.9 struck at NEW BRITAIN REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, some 4,600 miles away on the other side of the ‘Pacific Ring Of Fire’, the Pacific tectonic plate. Then, just 31 minutes later, boom, a magnitude 7.3 struck at nearly the same location. Wow, there are serious forces at work here.”


The blogger have plotted the location of the earthquakes, illustrating the distance between them while also showing the direction of movement of the Pacific tectonic plate. It seems like one side popping in Alaska may have stressed the other side such that it also needed to move in New Guinea.


It may be coincidence, the MSB continues.  “But something tells me otherwise…”

“Does it feel like to you that there has been increasing earth movements lately? It does to me. I’ve previously reported on the statistics of magnitude 5.0 and higher with regards to historical occurrences, and the frequency of occurrence is definitely up so far this year, 2010. We will see how the rest of the year averages out, while I expect to do a new analysis during early August.”

Here at the Econotwist’s Blog, I’ve separately made many similar observations, and also raised questions about what might be going on.

Specially the story about the many rare deep water fish that’s been surfacing lately, is an interesting related piece.

Related by the Econotwist:

Earthquake Frequency Up 133% In 2010

The Earth: A Danger Zone

Katla Could Be 100 Times – Not 10 – More Explosive Than Eyjafjallajokull

More Mysterious “Monster Fish” Comes To Surface

Low-Oxygen Zones In Oceans Worry Scientists

Earthquake May Have Shortened Days on Earth

Mother Earth On Crack

New Aftershock of 6,1 Hits Haiti


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Mother Earth On Crack

It must be the worst nightmare; the forces of nature spinning totally out of control. Is that what is about to happen? With one major ecological catastrophe after another? If so, it would be the “fattest tail” in the history of science.

“We hear about more earthquakes and it seems like they are more frequent.”

J. Ramón Arrowsmith

8,8 on The Richter Scale is quite a ride. But it’s not abnormal. Nor is the earthquake frequency out of the “normal” range, according to scientists. What’s worries me is that most scientists are using the same mathematical models when reaching their conclusions as the economists that didn’t see the financial crisis coming.

The Chilean earthquake, and the tsunami it spawned, originated on a hot spot known as a subduction zone, where one plate of Earth‘s crust dives under another.

It’s part of the very active “Ring of ire,” a zone of major crustal plate clashes that surround the Pacific Ocean.

“This particular subduction zone has produced very damaging earthquakes throughout its history,” says Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), according to Associated Press.

The world’s largest quake ever recorded, magnitude 9.5, occurred along the same fault zone in May 1960.

A Whole Lotta Shaking Going On

Magnitude-8 earthquakes occur globally, on average, just once a year.

“Since magnitudes are given on a logarithmic scale, an 8.8-magnitude is much more intense than a magnitude 8, and so this event would be even rarer,” J. Ramón Arrowsmith, a geologist at Arizona State University, says.

The Ryukyu Islands of Japan were hit with a 7.0-magnitude quake just last night. News of this, the Haiti quake and now Chile make it seem Earth is becoming ever more active. But in the grand scheme of things, geologists say this is just Mother Nature as usual.

“From our human perspective with our relatively short and incomplete memories and better and better communications around the world, we hear about more earthquakes and it seems like they are more frequent,” Arrowsmith said.

“But this is probably not any indication of a global change in earthquake rate of significance.”

“Coupled with better communication, as the human population skyrocket and we move into more hazardous regions, we’re going to hear more about the events that do occur,” Arrowsmith adds.

However, Stephen S. Gao, a geophysicist at Missouri University of Science & Technology, says: “Relative to the 20-year period from the mid 1970’s to the mid 1990’s, the Earth has been more active over the past 15 or so years.”

“We still do not know the reason for this yet. Could simply be the natural temporal variation of the stress field in the earth’s lithosphere.”

(The lithosphere; the outer solid part of the Earth.)

Common Factors

The latest earthquake in Chile have two common factors with the 7,0 magnitude quake in Japan recently.

For one, any seismic waves that did make their way from Japan to the Chilean coast could play a slight role in the ground-shaking.

“It is too far away for any direct triggering, and those distances also make the seismic waves as they would pass by from the Haiti or Japan events pretty small because of attenuation,” J. Ramón Arrowsmith says.

(Attenuation is the decrease in energy with distance.)

“Nevertheless, if the Chilean fault surface were close to failure, those small waves could push it even closer.”

In addition, both regions reside within the Ring of Fire, which is a zone surrounding the Pacific Ocean where the Pacific tectonic plate and other plates dive beneath other slabs of Earth.

About 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur along this arc.

The Fat Tail of Mother Nature

What do you think geologists, climate scientists, financial engineers and poker players have in common?

Financial model

They all use – roughly – the same mathematical models, based on available historical data,  to calculate probability.

Events that occur outside the statistical pattern are usually referred to as “fat tails”.

The last couple of years, the term “Black Swan” have been used about similar unexpected incidences.

(After Nassim Taleb’s famous book by the same name).

The “rocket scientists” on Wall Street obviously ran into a “fat tail” and it seems like the climate scientists, (or should I say “the climate industry”?),  are about to do the same.

So, what about the geologists?

What happen if?

That’s the question probability models are used for.

General model

The answer is only as reliable as the date you put into the formula.

And when it comes to the development of the Earth, our historical data is less than insignificant.

Even a million years is next to nothing.

Still, we’re determined to alter the composition of our  delicate earthly mechanisms.

Without knowing the consequences.

What would happen if we replaced all the salt water on the Earth with fresh water?

Or, what would happen if we replaced all the oil in the Earths lithosphere with a mixture of salt water and dirt? (Or pump the empty oil wells in the North Sea full of CO2?)

Well, I’m no geologist.

Related by the Econotwist

The Tragedy of The Century

Obama announces “non-binding” climate accord

A non-agreement on nothing

“Mini Ice Age” Underway?

Europe Risks Being Sidelined In Climate Talk

Netherlands Adds New Controversy To UN Climate Report

Top Scientist: “UN Climate Panel Is Losing All Credibility”

World May Not Be Warming, Scientists Says

As Climate War Intensifies, So Does Extreme Weather

Extreme Weather Around The Globe

Top 10 Risks of 2010

Coldest January In Norwegian History

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