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Posts Tagged ‘tectonic shifts’

Emergency declared after 7.1 quake hits New Zealand

Posted by Admin on September 4, 2010

Global earthquake epicenters, 1963 1998

Image via Wikipedia

WELLINGTON | Sat Sep 4, 2010 1:36pm IST

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Authorities declared an overnight curfew for Saturday after a major earthquake hit New Zealand‘s second biggest city, Christchurch, bringing down power lines and bridges and wrecking roads and building facades.

“The damages are incredibly frightening. The only thing you can say it’s a miracle that no one lost their life,” Prime Minister John Key told Television NZ after the quake struck with a magnitude of 7.1 from a depth of 10 kms (6 miles) at around 4.35 a.m. local time (1635 GMT Friday).

He said early estimates for the cost of repairs were around NZ$2 billion ($1.4 billion).

A curfew was slapped on the central business district of Christchurch between 1900 and 0700 (0700 GMT and 1900 GMT). Earlier, a formal civil defence state of emergency was imposed in the city of around 350,000 to coordinate recovery operations.

The last time authorities declared a local emergency was in late December 2007 when a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Gisborne on New Zealand’s North Island. The earthquake caused damage to some buildings but also caused no casualties.

Christchurch city and the neighbouring small towns bore the full force of the quake, which did considerable damage to infrastructure.

“The damage is immense, it’s something that has affected every family, every household…the hit on our infrastructure, the pipes that deliver the water, the waste water, the bridges, the power supplies…has been very significant,” Christchurch mayor Bob Parker told reporters.

The city’s hospital said two men had been admitted with serious injuries, one hit by a falling chimney and the other cut by glass.

Police said there were minor instances of looting, which had been quickly contained. In the suburbs many houses had broken windows, toppled chimneys, cracked walls and items thrown off shelves, with some streets and footpaths subsiding.

In late afternoon, power has been restored to 90 percent of the Christchurch urban area and 80 percent of the rural network.

Authorities were preparing to bring in water in large tankers because pumping stations were out of action and pipes broken.

RURAL EPICENTRE

The small farming community of Darfield, around 20 kms (12 miles) west of Christchurch, was near the quake’s epicentre.

The principal of the primary school there said the quake, which threw him out of bed, was terrifying.

“Our china cabinet has crashed, pictures are off the wall, anything high up has come down and the cat has gone. He is probably still heading south,” Markham McCullen told the NZ Press Association.

GNS Science, the New Zealand government seismological agency, revised the quake’s magnitude to 7.1 from an original 7.4. The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported it at 7.4 but later revised its figure to 7.0.

Christchurch airport, which was shut earlier, has been reopened and is operational, while the railway network and bridges throughout the region were also being checked for damage.

Canterbury University, which has about 22,000 students, said there has been no material structural damage on its campus, but the university will be closed until Sept 13 for health and safety assessment.

The quake was felt as a long rolling motion lasting up to 40 seconds. The area was continuing to feel aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.3.

The quake was among the 10 strongest recorded in New Zealand, which sits between the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates, and records around 14,000 earthquakes a year, of which around 20 top magnitude 5.0.

The last fatal quake was in 1968 when an earthquake measuring 7.1 killed three people on the South Island‘s West Coast.

($1 = NZ$1.39)

(Additional reporting by Mantik Kusjanto; Editing by David Fox)

(For more news, visit Reuters India)

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Iceland volcano could have world consequences

Posted by Admin on March 23, 2010

Iceland volcano could have world consequences

1783 eruption changed weather patterns, sent poisoned air to British Isles

By Gudjon Helgason and Paisley Dodds

updated 7:30 p.m. ET March 22, 2010//

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Blasts of lava and ash shot out of a volcano in southern Iceland on Monday and small tremors rocked the ground, a surge in activity that raised fears of a larger explosion at the nearby Katla volcano.

Scientists say history has proven that when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupts, Katla follows — the only question is how soon. And Katla, located under the massive Myrdalsjokull icecap, threatens disastrous flooding and explosive blasts when it blows.

Saturday’s eruption at Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) — dormant for nearly 200 years — forced at least 500 people to evacuate. Most have returned to their homes, but authorities were waiting for scientific assessments to determine whether they were safe to stay. Residents of 14 farms nearest to the eruption site were told to stay away.

Several small tremors were felt early Monday, followed by spurts of lava and steam rocketing into the air.

Iceland sits on a large volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic’s mid-oceanic ridge. Eruptions, common throughout Iceland’s history, are often triggered by seismic activity when the Earth’s plates move and when magma from deep underground pushes its way to the surface.

Like earthquakes, predicting the timing of volcanic eruptions is an imprecise science. An eruption at the Katla volcano could be disastrous, however — both for Iceland and other nations.

Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted in 1783, freeing gases that turned into smog. The smog floated across the Jet Stream, changing weather patterns. Many died from gas poisoning in the British Isles. Crop production fell in western Europe. Famine spread. Some even linked the eruption, which helped fuel famine, to the French Revolution. Painters in the 18th century illustrated fiery sunsets in their works.

The winter of 1784 was also one of the longest and coldest on record in North America. New England reported a record stretch of below-zero temperatures and New Jersey reported record snow accumulation. The Mississippi River also reportedly froze in New Orleans.

“These are Hollywood-sort of scenarios but possible,” said Colin Macpherson, a geologist with the University of Durham. “As the melt rises, it’s a little like taking a cork out of a champagne bottle.”

There are three main places where volcanoes normally occur — along strike-slip faults such as California’s San Andreas fault line, along areas where plates overlap one another such as in the Philippines and the Pacific Rim, and in areas like Iceland, where two of the Earth’s plates are moving apart from each other in a so-called spreading system.

Unlike the powerful volcanos along the Pacific Rim where the slow rise of magma gives scientists early seismic warnings that an eruption is imminent, Iceland’s volcanos are unique in that many erupt under ice sheets with little warning.

Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland who flew over the site Monday, said the beginning of Saturday’s eruption was so indistinct that it initially went undetected by geological instruments. Many of the tremors were below magnitude 2.6.

Using thermal cameras and radar to map the lava flow, Gudmundsson and other scientists were able to determine that the lava from Eyjafjallajokull was flowing down a gorge and not moving toward the ice caps — reducing any threat of floods.

He said he and other scientists were watching Katla but Monday’s trip was meant to assess immediate risk.

“A general expectation is that because of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, the fissure would widen and in that sense, there’s a greater risk of extending into or underneath the glaciers and prompting an eruption at Katla,” said Andy Russell with Newcastle University’s Earth Surface Processes Research Group, who went with a team to Iceland before the eruption. “From records, we know that every time Eyjafjallajokull erupts, Katla has also erupted.”

Russell said past Katla eruptions have caused floods the size of the Amazon and sent boulders as big as houses tumbling down valleys and roads. The last major eruption took place in 1918. Floods followed in as little as an hour.

Those eruptions have posed risks to residents nearby, but most of Iceland’s current population of 320,000 live in the capital of Reykjavik on the western part of the island.

Southern Iceland is sparely populated but has both glaciers and unstable volcanoes — a destructive combination.

The last time there was an eruption near the 100-square-mile (160 square-kilometer) Eyjafjallajokull glacier was in 1821, and that was a “lazy” eruption that lasted slowly and continuously for two years.

https://i1.wp.com/www.hotelskogar.is/resources/images/Attractions/hekla2.jpg
Iceland is one of the few places in the world where a mid-ocean ridge actually rises above sea level. Many volcanic eruptions along the ocean basin often go undetected because they can’t be easily seen.

First settled by Vikings in the 9th century, Iceland is known as the land of fire and ice because of its volcanos and glaciers. During the Middle Ages, Icelanders called the Hekla volcano, the country’s most active, the “Gateway to Hell,” believing that souls were dragged into the fire below.

The last major volcanic eruption in Iceland occurred in 2004 with the Grimsvotn volcano.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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