Southern California environment news and trends

Hospital safety spurs San Diego earthquake tests

Mercer 15938

LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Southern California earthquake damage, 1971.

Scientists at UC San Diego have constructed a fully outfitted five-story building (complete with a hospital on the top floor) for the purpose of subjecting it to simulated shocks on par with the 1994 Northridge earthquake this week. The magnitude of the simulations will range from 6.7 to 8.8, “near worst case scenarios” for what could potentially happen if a quake hit the San Andreas Fault.

According to NBC Los Angeles, the test building is outfitted with 80 cameras and 500 monitors, allowing the researchers will be able to watch and measure first hand exactly what happens when such tremors hit a structure, particularly hospitals.

"The research obtained in this shake test will help us retrofit and design hospitals so that they can continue to function after a major earthquake,” said Richard McCarthy, a California Seismic Safety Commission chairman to 10News.


NASA-funded study scores high in assessing California quakes

If we could predict earthquakes, what a California world it would be. Lives would be saved. Buildings would be secured. Every time a truck rumbles past out windows, we wouldn’t have to dive for the desk. As yet, the technology does not exist to precisely predict every earth shaker to rumble across the Southland. But NASA recently announced that we’re moving closer to this day.

A new NASA-backed study from the University of California, Davis, shows that the best forecasts are now about 10 times more accurate than a random prediction. In 2005, the Southern California Earthquake Center launched a competition for forecasters to predict earthquakes. The recent Davis study, who also submitted a forecast, looked at seven entries in the competition.

As UC Davis reports, “Teams were invited to forecast the probability of an earthquake of magnitude 4.95 or greater, from Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2010, in almost 8,000 grid squares covering California and bordering areas.” The Davis study found that the best forecasts were much more accurate than previous random estimations. The study will be used to help researchers streamline quake forecasts and assessment tools.


Song of the Week: "California Earthquake," some advice for the Best Coast

I think Chris Christie just jumped into the race. (credit @pareene). Quake hit near Charlottesville where I went to school. Can confirm some there are familiar with feeling unsteady and falling down. (credit @jdickerson) Pray for DC to recover from the devastation. 

My favorite on my Facebook: We don't get out of bed for anything less than a 6. 

I have lived on the east coast, several times. I've taken plenty of mockery from the Northeast for California's floods, mudslides, wildfires, quakes, and other assorted pestilence. "Oceanfront Property in Arizona" played in my college newspaper office for me from some mid-Atlantic types. "You're all going to fall into the sea," they laughed. 

Still, as for mocking the way people tremble in the fact of weather, I'm equal opportunity. I've also poked fun at the terror of a .5" "blizzard" in Washington, D.C. (Quick! Buy all the toilet paper in Harris Teeter!) And snickered at the thought of "hunkering down" during Carmageddon (across town, because the freeways were empty). 


The East Coast gets earthquakes too: 5.9 in Virginia [UPDATED]

Click through to the US Geological Survey's website for ongoing reports of what's happening there. The last earthquake in Virginia was centered closer to Blacksburg, and was much smaller - magnitude of 2.5. If I'm not mistaken, 5.9 is about the largest Virgina has ever felt in recorded-USGS-type history. Anyone out there feel it? 

[UPDATE, 11:40 AM: NPR sure did. Via Facebook: "Staff are asked to evacuate NPR’s DC buildings until we have learned more. We will continue to seek additional information. Monitor your email via mobile device outside the building and follow NPR Security instructions."]