Today in History: Krakatoa Volcano

August 27th, 2014 -- Posted in Volcanoes | No Comments »

On August 27, 1883 the Krakatoa island volcano erupted in Indonesia’s Sunda Strait. The scale of the volcanic eruption and resulting tsunami was cataclysmic. More than 36,000 lives were lost.

For more information click here for 19th Century History and here for an Australian Bureau of Meteorology article.

Earthquakes, Plate Tectonics, and the Richter Scale Infographic

July 23rd, 2014 -- Posted in Earthquakes | No Comments »
Earthquake Anatomy

Worst Geologic Disasters of 2012

January 29th, 2013 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Volcanoes | No Comments »

guest post by Rebecca Shields

On April 11, two consecutive earthquakes with magnitudes of 8.2 and 8.6 occurred off the west coast of northern Sumatra, where the Sunda plate meets the Indi/Australian plate. Many earthquakes happen at these ‘plate boundaries’ due to movement of the plates themselves. This specific plate boundary is in the same location of the record 9.1 earthquake from December 26, 2004 that caused multiple tsunamis, killing over 230,000 people. Tsunamis occur when an earthquake creates a shift in a huge amount of landmass under the ocean. When this large amount of land moves under the water, an upswelling occurs, creating the tsunami wave. A tsunami did result from the April earthquakes, but people living in the surrounding areas were prepared and no one was hurt. Unlike recent years, no tsunami was able to cause enough destruction to be considered a disaster!

Like earthquakes, most volcanoes are located near plate boundaries. The volcano that affected the most people in 2012 is Volcan de Fuego. It is located in Guatemala on the ‘Ring of Fire’. The Ring of Fire surrounds the Pacific Ocean and is made up of volcanoes. A few different plate boundaries come into play along the ring, but the result is the same: hundreds of volcanoes. When Volcan de Fuego erupted on September 13, 2012, the Guatemalan government called for the evacuation of almost 35,000 residents in 17 surrounding areas. Other significant eruptions of 2012 were the Plosky Tolbachik in Russia, Puyehue in Chile, and Etna in Italy.

Worst Geologic Disasters of 2012

Japan is a series of islands formed by volcanoes located on the Ring of Fire. Along with a healthy dose of volcanic activity, Japan experienced massive floods and landslides in 2012. In early July 2012, southern Japan experienced torrential rainfall exceeding 3.5in per hour, resulting in flash floods and at least 518 landslides across the country. Twenty-eight people were confirmed dead and over 250,000 people were ordered to evacuate. Landslides can be especially deadly due to the speed at which they can travel, sometimes up to 35 mph. They are made up of anything that gets in the way, creating an almost solid wall of debris. Landslides are oftentimes associated with floods because they are caused by the buildup of large amounts of water on a mountain slope or hillside.

All the geologic hazards discussed happen daily around the world. However, under the right conditions, they turn deadly very fast. It is always important to know what hazards are common in your area, and be prepared for all possibilities.

7.4 El Salvador Quake

August 26th, 2012 -- Posted in Earthquakes | No Comments »

A 7.4 magnitude quake struck offshore of El Salvador tonight (Sunday).  The USGS reports the quake hit at 10:37 pm at the epicenter in the Pacific Ocean about 105 miles south of San Salvador, El Salvador, and 74 miles south of Usulutan, El Salvador.  The depth was recorded at 52.9 km (32.9 miles).

A tsunami warning is in effect for Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and Mexico.  A tsunami warning has not been issued for Hawaii.

El Salvador Quake Map (USGS Map)

Earthquakes in Fiction

June 22nd, 2012 -- Posted in Earthquakes | No Comments »

My sense of awe for Mother Nature, my experiences living in earthquake country, and my aspiration to write thrilling stories all combine in the pages of my first novel.  Have you read a novel that features a natural disaster in the story?  You might want to give The Doctor’s Dilemma a try.  Set in a remote village in Mexico, the last thing the characters want to do is get involved in a romantic relationship.  They spend their time working hard in the pediatric clinic and trying to avoid each other.  When disaster strikes they soon realize they are equally committed to helping the community, and their close working relationship makes it impossible to ignore their attraction to one another.

The Doctor’s Dilemma is a finalist in the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Award. (A Published Author’s Contest for books published in 2011 sponsored by the Greater Detroit RWA) It finaled in two categories, Best Traditional Romance and Best First Book!  Winners will be determined in July 2012.  Cross your fingers.  Amazon currently has The Doctor’s Dilemma SALE priced!  Get your copy before they’re all gone.

Mighty Icebergs

June 4th, 2012 -- Posted in Icebergs | No Comments »

An iceberg is an enormous piece of ice made of freshwater that has broken off from a glacier or ice shelf and is floating in open water. Icebergs are at least seventeen feet above the surface of the water and fifty feet long. Anything smaller is called a growler or bergy bits.

Icebergs are classified by shape, most commonly being either tabular or non-tabular. Tabular icebergs are block-like and have steep sides and a flat top. These are found at the ice shelves of Antarctica. Non-tabular icebergs have domes and spires, called castle icebergs and are formed from the Greenland ice sheets in the arctic regions.

One of the biggest castle icebergs ever reported by the Coast Guard was 550 feet above the sea. That’s taller than the Statue of Liberty! The largest tabular iceberg on record was over 31,000 square kilometers (12,000 sq mi) sighted in the South Pacific Ocean, by the USS Glacier in 1956. This iceberg was larger than the country of Belgium! More than two-thirds of the Earth’s freshwater exists as ice in the form of glaciers and ice caps.

Due to their constant shifting, icebergs can be a threat. Using satellites and other instruments, icebergs are monitored worldwide by the U.S. National Ice Center (NIC) and the International Ice Patrol (IIP) an office within the Dept of Homeland Security.

Perhaps the most famous iceberg is the one that collided with the Titanic. Here’s an interesting story about the birth and fate of that castle iceberg: What Happened to the Iceberg That Sank the Titanic?

Check out this awesome iceberg activity. Click below to start the video.

Italy Earthquake brings Historic Buildings Crashing Down

May 20th, 2012 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters | No Comments »

A magnitude-6.0 quake struck in the middle of the night, about 35km (22 miles) north of the Italian city of Bologna. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake at a relatively shallow depth of 10km  (6.2 miles) just after 04:00 am local time (02:00 GMT). Later on Sunday, a magnitude 5.1 aftershock hit the region, causing more buildings to collapse.  The earthquake has killed at least seven and injured more than 50 people.

The epicenter of the quake, north of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region, was felt across northern Italy, including the cities of Bologna, Modena, Ferrara, Rovigo, Verona and Mantua and as far away as Milan and Venice.  The earthquake and aftershocks reduced historic churches and castle towers to rubble and forced many terrified residents into the streets.

The BBC reported the following eyewitness accounts: “I was woken at around 04:00 by the quake, it was strong and lasted up to a minute, maybe more,” Frankie Thompson, a UK travel journalist in Bologna, told the BBC.   “Church bells were set off spontaneously… followed by an eerie silence. Small aftershocks kept coming and going until maybe 05:50 when a stronger tremor shook us again but not as long and dramatic as the first,” she added.

Britain’s David Trew, who is staying in a hotel in Ferrara, told the BBC: “I was sound asleep when the tremors started. I was having quite a vivid dream, and the first few seconds of the quake became part of the dream.  “As I began to wake up it took me a few seconds to realize that it was actually happening for real. I fumbled around in the darkness, now very scared. The room was shaking violently, plaster was dropping off the ceiling into my hair and all over the floor.”

The search for survivors continues as aftershocks rattle residents. The last major earthquake to hit Italy was a 6.3 magnitude quake in the central Italian city of L’Aquila in 2009, killing nearly 300 people.

Magnitude 7.6 Earthquake Strikes Mexico

March 20th, 2012 -- Posted in Earthquakes | No Comments »

The U.S. Geological Service confirmed the magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit at 12:02 (Pacific time).  At about 6.2 miles deep, the quake epicenter occurred in the southern Guerrero state, near the border with Oaxaca state, about 115 miles from the tourist resort of Acapulco and 100 miles from Oaxaca City. In Mexico City, the quake shook buildings and a prolonged rocking motion swayed buildings and sent terrified people flooding into the streets.  Cell phone lines went down and traffic jammed in the moments after the quake. But there did not appear to be any major damage in the city.

According to the LA Times Blog, the governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cue, reported cracks and broken windows in several schools and minor damage to a number of Oaxaca City’s iconic monuments. He said signposts had fallen in the city as well. Workers at two hotels in Oaxaca said they noticed a few seconds of shaking but no real damage or injuries.  “Yes, we felt the shaking for 15 to 20 seconds, but no damage,” a woman at the front desk of the Hotel Marina in Huatulco told ABC News.

No reports of injuries at this time. Also, the USGS has not issued a tsunami warning or advisory in the area.

USGS Mexico Quake Map

USGS Mexico Quake Map

Japan Tsunami Disaster Anniversary

March 11th, 2012 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Tsunami | No Comments »

A year ago today, a massive 9.0 earthquake battered Japan, followed by a lethal tsunami, ravaging fires, and nuclear power plant meltdown. Entire villages were wiped out, thousands of people were reported missing, thousands more were injured and left homeless, and more than 15,000 people were killed. In one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of Japan, the world watched in horror. Images from the devastated country made us all heartsick, and perhaps made us feel vulnerable to the power of nature—or at least aware of it.

The aftermath left a wasteland of once pristine and vibrant coastal communities. Though some restoration has occurred, there is obviously so much more to do. But for today, thousands of Japanese will pause from their daily activities to pay respects to the victims lost in the disaster.

Remains of a Home After the Tsunami

And how are the survivors doing a year later? According to The Telegraph, “In the worst-affected areas, the clear-up, let alone the recovery is far from complete. Ships stay stranded inland, cars sit where they came to rest on top of buildings.”

An article in the San Jose Mercury News reported, “Of course the scenes on TV were horrific,” said Dianne Fukami, president of the board of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, a former TV journalist who is producing a documentary about relief efforts by the Japanese-American community. “But when you stand in the middle of what used to be a neighborhood and turn 360 degrees and can’t see anything that resembles a house, it’s a different experience.”

It appears that Japan has a long road ahead to revitalization—to rebuilding structures and lives—and we are sending the survivors our respects today.

Midwest Devastated by Tornado Swarms

March 4th, 2012 -- Posted in Tornado | No Comments »

As deadly twisters ripped through 12 states in the Midwest and the South on Friday, they obliterated homes, leveled towns, and killed at least 38 people. Hardest hit were Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

The National Weather Service reported that the four twisters to hit Kentucky were the worst in the region in 24 years.  “In Indiana, a tornado packing 175 mph winds hit the town of Henryville, and stayed on the ground for more than 50 miles. Three tornadoes in Kentucky had wind speeds up to 160 mph.”

The Associated Press In West Liberty, Ky., reported the aftermath for Doris Shuck. The storms took her home, leaving only the basement and front porch. “I could hear the glass and hear the wood breaking. I just thought the house is going to fall on top of me,” she said. She had scrapes and bruises.

The town of Marysville, Ind., population about 1,900, was “completely gone,” Clark County sheriff’s Maj. Chuck Adams told NBC News.
Paige Colburn, an emergency management officer at the Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency, told that the damage in Alabama covered a 4- to 5-mile swath in northern Madison County. “The reason that it is so wide is because we’re not talking about one tornado. We’re talking about a very large super-cell that spawned several smaller tornadoes,” she said.

As survivors try to recover and search and rescue teams continue their efforts to find missing and injured residents, the American Red Cross has launched a multi state relief operation. To learn more about helping, visit

Midwest Leap Day Tornado Outbreak

February 29th, 2012 -- Posted in Tornado | No Comments »

Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska were slammed by deadly storms around 1 a.m. today. Massive damage, injuries and fatalities have been reported in Branson, Mo; Buffalo, Mo; Harveyville, Kansas; and Harrisburg, Illinois.

Small towns in Illinois and Kansas were hit hard. At least nine deaths are blamed on the tornadoes.

Tornado Forming in Kansas

According to a KRMG news article, a man at a hotel in Branson, Mo. told KRMG, “Next thing I know the entire building is starting to shake. I believe there’s 12 floors to the hotel. You could hear windows being blown out and you could see debris out the window,” Corey Hall said. “The storm hit from both sides. It just basically went over the top of the hotel.”

The Christian Science Monitor quoted Branson’s Mayor “We were blessed with several things—the time of year and certainly the time of day, when people were not in their vehicles or outdoors,” said Mayor Raeanne Presley, noting that during Branson’s peak season, up to 60,000 visitors would have been in the city on any given day and staying in many of the hotels that were damaged.

Tulsa World News posted a historic record of previous Leap Day tornado outbreaks.  The growing reports indicate that 2012 may be the worst Leap Day outbreak yet.