The director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, Thomas Jordan, made an announcement recently that would have sent a chill down the spine of every Californian: that the San Andreas fault appears to be in a critical state and as such, could generate a large earthquake imminently. Of course, the reiteration of the seismic hazard to Californians will be nothing surprising, but what is new is the warning that the southern portion of the fault “looks like it’s locked, loaded and ready to go”.
Why is this eminent seismologist making these alarming statements? Well, the fact is that there has not been a major release of stresses in the southern portion of the San Andreas fault system since 1857. In simple terms, the San Andreas is one of many fault systems roughly marking the border between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Both plates are moving in an approximately northerly direction but the Pacific plate is moving faster than its North American counterpart, meaning that stresses between the plates are constantly building up.
In 1906, some of these stresses were catastrophically released in the San Francisco Bay area in a 7.8 magnitude event and again, in northern California, during the 6.9 magnitude 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Events of these magnitudes, however, have not occurred along the San Andreas fault in the south of the state – the 1994 Northridge event was associated with a nearby, but separate, fault system – leading to the suggestion that one is imminent and, given the amount of stress that might actually have accumulated, when it arrives it will be the “Big One”.
How big is ‘Big’?
So just how big could this potential earthquake be and is it possible that the destruction demonstrated in the film San Andreas could actually come to fruition?
In short, Californians will be (reasonably) pleased with the answers to these questions. In the film, the San Andreas fault produces an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0. While not unheard of globally, earthquakes of this size are generally confined to regions of the earth where subduction – where one tectonic plate is being forced below another – is happening, for example in Chile and Japan. The tectonic situation in California is different. Here, two plates are sliding past each other.
As such, recent predictions limit the possible maximum earthquake magnitude along the San Andreas fault system to 8.0, although with a 7% probability estimate that such an event could occur in Southern California in the next 30 years; over the same period, there is a 75% chance of a magnitude 7.0 event. While magnitudes of 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 might sound negligibly different, the energy that such events would unleash varies significantly, with a magnitude 9.0 event releasing 32 times more energy than a magnitude 8.0 and 1,000 times more energy than a magnitude 7.0.
Obviously, however, be it a 7.0 or an 8.0, damage is inevitable, but the whole sequence of events, as depicted in the film, is unlikely. For example, the San Andreas fault is not beneath the ocean and as such, any slippage along it could not displace water to the extent that a tsunami would be generated. The opening up of a massive chasm is also from the land of fantasy, as the plates are sliding relative to each other, not away from each other.
What is realistic, however, is that a great amount of destruction is likely. While the building codes in California are stringent, recommending retrofitting of seismic protection measures to older buildings and preventing the construction of new buildings near to known fault lines, there is no way to make a building 100% safe.
In an attempt to understand the effects of a large, southern San Andreas earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey modelled a 7.8 magnitude event, with slippage of 2-7 metres, to represent the stresses that have built up in the area since the last large event.
From this model, it was found that damage would be most severe to constructions straddling the fault. Fortunately, constructions of this sort are few and far between following the 1972 Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act. What would be affected by this slippage, however, are the 966 roads, 90 fibre optic cables, 39 gas pipes and 141 power lines that cross the fault zone.
The total cost of damage to buildings was estimated at $33 billion, with modern buildings faring well but older buildings being particularly susceptible. Fires would rage – as they did following the Northridge earthquake – as gas mains, and mains water pipes, become severed; in fact, the damage from resulting fires is estimated as more costly than that resulting from the initial shaking.
The overall death toll is estimated at 1,800. And just when things don’t look like they can get any worse, the main event will have destabilised the tectonics of the region to such an extent that a series of potentially powerful aftershocks will begin. For example, in 2011, Christchurch, New Zealand was struck by a 6.2 magnitude event and since then the city and surrounding region have experienced more than 10,000 aftershocks.
Fortunately, the film San Andreas is pure fiction, featuring the levels of exaggeration we are all used to from film makers who are, ironically, also based in southern California.
Even so, in all probability, the San Andreas is likely to generate a significant earthquake in the not too distant future. When it arrives, the damage will be significant and southern California will be massively affected. But Californians are no strangers to these events and the infrastructure of the state, in recent times, has been designed with earthquake protection in mind.
Forget tsunamis and deep chasms opening up, but do expect violent shaking, building damage, fires and widespread economic impacts as the region is out of action for potentially a long period of time.
Elon Musk Warns ‘God of Chaos’ Asteroid May Hit Earth In 2029
A decade from now, a huge potentially hazardous asteroid, named after the ancient Egyptian deity of evil and destruction, will whizz by the Earth with a one in 45,000 chance of hitting our planet.
NASA has already begun preparations for the impending arrival of asteroid 99942 Apophis, also known as the “God of Chaos”, which will pass within 31,000 kilometres of Earth’s surface on 13 April 2029.
God of Chaos
Set, also known as Seth and Suetekh, was the Egyptian god of war, chaos and storms, brother of Osiris, Isis, and Horus the Elder, uncle to Horus the Younger, and brother-husband to Nephthys. His other consort was the goddess Tawaret, a hippo-headed deity who presided over fertility and childbirth. He is one of the first five gods created by the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) after the creation of the world. His name is usually translated as “instigator of confusion” and “destroyer” and he was associated with disorder, foreign lands and people, and the color red.
Roughly the size of four football fields (approx 340 meters across), if the space rock were to hit Earth, it would smash us with the force of 15,000 nuclear weapons detonating simultaneously.
However, Musk rightly cautions that the entire Apophis narrative is a little overblown: during its close flyby in 2029, the asteroid will come within 37,600km (23,363 miles) of our planet, just a tenth of the distance between Earth and the Moon. Scary but not quite apocalyptic.
The scientists suggest while it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute when it screams past Earth on April 13, 2029, the giant asteroid will more likely provide a magnificent spectacle for stargazers than the doom of all life on Earth.
While NASA scientists have been preparing to study the giant rock as it swings past Earth, one particular space connoisseur has been unfazed by the issue.
Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company CEO, took to Twitter to reassure his pal, podcast host Joe Rogan, who had retweeted an article about the “God of Chaos” that 99942 Apophis was not a subject of concern – for now.
In fact, NASA and Musk’s SpaceX are working together on the space agency’s first spacecraft impact asteroid redirect mission, which will be a key test before the actual need to protect the planet from a giant rock approaching the planet.
Under the so-called Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which is scheduled for June 2021, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets will launch in the direction of asteroid 65803 Didymos (or “Didymain”) and its tiny satellite Didymoon to see if it could redirect the rock from its intended path. To that end, the space agency has paid $69 million to Musk’s venture.
Aside from this, NASA announced earlier this year that it had teamed up with international partners to perform a “tabletop exercise” on how to handle a hypothetical asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
Debunking the Persistent Myth that Trump Opposes War
Whenever I criticize the foreign policy of the current US administration, I always get some pushback from Trump supporters who insist that this president is doing more good than harm by “fighting the Deep State” and, even more commonly, by “keeping us out of wars”.
This notion that Donald Trump is some kind of peace president, or even the notion that he puts any more inertia on the US war machine than his predecessor did, is contradicted by all facts and evidence we have available to us. Trump has not ended a single one of the wars his predecessors started, and has added dangerous escalations against Venezuela, Iran, and nuclear-armed Russia.
France prepares a Space Force: it will launch satellites equipped with machine guns and laser weapons
Months after President Donald Trump signed a directive to create the United States Space Force, France has begun to prepare the ground for the creation of its own version.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the Air Force will establish a space command for the purpose of national defense; particularly the protection of French satellites, according to Le Point .
First, France will launch the next generation of Syracuse satellites equipped with cameras to identify space threats, such as anti-satellite weapons.
Currently, the French army operates a constellation of three Syracuse satellites, mainly used for communications between the country and troops dispatched abroad. But after the new cameras are tested, France will launch another generation of satellites that will also be able to destroy enemy satellites.
“If our satellites are threatened, we are considering blinding those of our opponents,” said French Defense Minister Florence Parly on July 25 at 942 Lyon Mont-Verdun Air Base. “This could be done by using lasers from our satellites or from our patrol nano-satellites.”
The minister also mentioned “machine guns capable of breaking the solar panels of a hostile space aircraft.”
And while the Outer Space Treaty does not allow the testing of weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons in orbit, and other United Nations treaties also prohibit the weaponization of space, France does not intend to violate these treaties or initiate space battles. With your satellites
«An active defense is not an offensive strategy; it’s self defense, ”Parly argued. “It is what happens when a hostile act has been identified as such, and it is acceptable within the limits of international law to be able to respond in an appropriate and proportionate manner. The law prohibits neither legitimate defense nor militarization.
«We don’t want to embark on a space arms race. We will only carry out a reasonable arsenalization, ”he added.
The project will reallocate an additional $ 780 million to the current space budget of $ 4 billion from 2021 to 2025 and involve 220 soldiers from several French military space agencies. The plan is for this entire operation to start from a new airfield built in Toulouse in 2025, and Parly argues that the project “will not be a fantasy, but that it is an incredible ambition.”
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