Sunday, March 13, 2011


Mount St. Helens, Washington State, May 1980  USGS photo

Last Friday a meagathrust 9 earthquake moved Japan eight feet closer to the United States. The giant tsunami that followed caused only a few deaths in the United States and "just" millions of dollars of damage along our west coast, but it  was an  unforgiving 25-30 foot wave of death on parts of the Japanese coast that pushed inland for six miles and left a crushed and heartbroken nation at the doorstep of multiple nuclear meltdowns.  It is likely the death toll  from the quake and tsunami will soar to five figures.  In 1980 our Mount St Helens errupted sending a cloud of ash around the world as a pyroclastic flow and mud slide killed 57 in Washinton State.  These events are closely related; not by ramblings of apoplectic preachers seeking donations for their churchs, or Mayan Calender devotees, they are connected by the
Ring of Fire.

Japan sits right on top of one of the most active sections of this 25,000 mile long "ring" that incircles the Pacific Basin, including the entire west coast of the United States. 90% of the world's eathquakes occur in this ring as do 452 volcanoes. The events of last week - caused by the shifting of the tectonic plates that create and rock the ring - were catastrophic, but even more powerful events than the horrifying deaths by the crush of tsunami we witnessed from Japanese videos can and most likely will occur.The death tolls were held somewhat in check by new construction methods, expanding tsunami warning systems, highly skilled search and rescue teams and data from the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research, NASA and other scientific reseach (some of which is now being threatened in the U.S.A. by budget cuts).   Geologic time bombs simmer, our Yellowstone Super Volcano is one of them--if that one day goes---- well, many, many of us go too and nothing will ever be the same.

Unless we want to behave like tiny drowning brainless fleas clinging  to a large shaking wet dog it's time to encourage our government to continue to fund science and research.  Mother Nature was not warning us to be careful, but it would be wise for us to take the events of the past week as a warning and work toward a new mindset, a mindset that is more concerned about the enviroment and nature and humanity and the wonderous forces of geology under our feet and seas than materialism and Charlie Sheen.  But that takes effort and courage and the desire to work for a common good without quick reward. Just saying a prayer may make you feel good, but will not change facts on the ground.
First rate science education and research will help.

 It is time to breathe deeply, look at Japan, and realize that they are us, and we are one people on our fragile and restless Planet Earth and her Ring of Fire. 
The tectonic plates will move again: The California section of the Ring of Fire is overdue for  catastrophic movement, it is not a matter of if, it is WHEN. If you don't understand that you are not paying attention.
The big wet dog will shake again.

Japan after the tsunami hit. March 11, 2011  
Credit: AP photo from BBC News


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