Thursday, August 20, 2015

The big one -earthquakes

I am reading Harry Turtledove's Supervolcano series.  I am on book two.  The super eruption it describes via the Yellowstone caldera is probably single worst natural earth-based disaster that could be said to be possible, with a percentage higher than 1, in our lifetime.

This one I think is number 2.

The Really Big One
Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, 20 July 2015 (hat tip: NC)

 When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater. (Watch what your fingertips do when you flatten your hand.) The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.” 
In the Pacific Northwest, the area of impact will cover some hundred and forty thousand square miles, including Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Salem (the capital city of Oregon), Olympia (the capital of Washington), and some seven million people. When the next full-margin rupture happens, that region will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America. Roughly three thousand people died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. Almost two thousand died in Hurricane Katrina. Almost three hundred died in Hurricane Sandy. FEMA projects that nearly thirteen thousand people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will be injured, and the agency expects that it will need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million. “This is one time that I’m hoping all the science is wrong, and it won’t happen for another thousand years,” 


The article is a very good, long piece, with a tone that is frighteningly even.

Route 5 - left of equals toast

The Pacific Northwest is, sadly for New Orleans, a much more important part of the country than the areas of the Gulf Coast that were hit by Katrina.  Although I don't think it would be a total collapse scenario, it would put us into similar, but more desperate, circumstances to what the West Germans all of the sudden had to absorb East Germany into their economy.  Our ability to play policeman to the world would likely be severely curtailed, if not extinguished, and as the run up to WW2 showed, having the world's superpower intentionally isolating itself can lead to huge problems.  Turtledove does this by having the Iranian's nuking (only one on the first round?) the Israelis; I think the potential problems could be a lot larger than that. 

4 comments:

James M Dakin said...

If you look at east Texas after Katrina, and the influx of black ghetto crowds relocating there causing crime waves and the white fear displayed ( it isn't even as if there weren't already a huge black population there ), you can get a small idea of the social disruption multiple cities emptying out of the coast will have on surrounding areas. Plus, there simply won't be the money for them. With Katrina, the blacks were already on the welfare roles. After the west coast, literally tens of millions will suddenly need to be added to them. Good luck with that.

Tewshooz said...

mmmmmm most of the political liberal wacos live on the west coast. Especially San Francisco and Seattle. Nuf said

PioneerPreppy said...

Not so sure it would curtail the US government yet. As long as no one stops the debt they could keep going even to rebuild the West coast. Now if foreign powers said enough. Well then it would be a totally different ball game.

russell1200 said...

James: the scale is way way beyond Katrina. The outmigration will likely be from the edges. The people in the effected area will be dead or crippled. It will be somewhat like the tsunami that hit Southeast Asia a few years ago, but much larger.

Tewshooz: It is also home to a lot of hardcore conservatives. The "left-coalition" that wins in politics mixes a very diverse group of folks, not all of whom are traditional liberals. California just through Tech and Hollywood and farm goods is a huge source of our hard capital which allows us to buy oil in dollars.

Pioneer: As I noted with Tew, the destruction of export goods would be a disaster as far as being able to keep the money train rolling. You would have a huge destruction of wealth (deflationary) combined with the huge influx of dollars. Likely result would be that impossible beast" Stagflation. I don't think you would get that zombie-like fast collapse that folks enjoy in novels, but we would be well on our way to being an oversized third world country.