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Posted by on Dec 20, 2012 in Science |

December 21: The Super-earthquake

December 21: The Super-earthquake

In FayerWayer not believe that on December 21 the world ends. Maya culture experts have repeatedly dismissed and no scientific reason to believe that a catastrophe will happen. However, given the interest shown date, we decided to explore some scenarios so interesting world.


Three days of darkness, a nuclear winter, global economic collapse, the arrival of the zombies , meteorites crashing on Earth , or even nothing at all , are part of the range of theories shufflers who fear the end of the world for 21 days December, also catching on the belief that there will soon be a that will shake the entire planet.

According to some, an interpretation for the Third Mystery of Fatima said to shake the earth for several consecutive hours, leaving dire consequences for our humanity. But maybe it’s a bit much to think that actually tremble so long, so we land the subject to something more realistic: a single super-earthquake somewhere in the world. Or everywhere.

What, how and where

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The first thing that comes to mind when defining a Super-magnitude is thinking. During its history, humanity has suffered major earthquakes, such as Valdivia, Chile in 1960 (9.5 degrees), another occurred in 2004 in Indonesia (9.3 degrees) and 9.2 degrees in Alaska the year 1964, among many others given in even more populated areas.

But the essential thing is not to think in magnitude, but the affected area is the fact that we will indicate the level of destruction that will be in an area. “The sheer magnitude correlacioanda not to damage because actually a great earthquake of this magnitude is a sequence of earthquakes of magnitude slightly smaller and that’s what makes it so great extent,” says Rodolfo Huerta Saragoni , 40-year academic career in Seismic Design Faculty of the University of Chile, who exemplifies the idea to suppose about five earthquakes of magnitude eight, which would result in an event like the lived in Valdivia. Here, what happens is that the great magnitude, to cover as wide an area, covering a large area causing tremendous energy, which affects especially if the epicenter is the sea, great cause tsunamis. In coastal cities no damage would be lower, despite a greater intensity recorded at 9 degrees.

For places that could be affected, there are areas where the reliefs are still relatively young geologically speaking, so it is always expected some kind of strong seismic activity in the future. According to Dr. Francisco Jose Ferrando Acuña, a geographer at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Chile, “the whole country of Chile, between the northern and Taitao Peninsula, are subject to a geophysical determinism derived from a subduction of the Nazca plate beneath the South American plate to velocvidades of 9-11 cm / year. It is, therefore, a condition that can not escape.

Other vulnerable sites generally associated with “Ring of Fire”, the main victims of the areas of friction between tectonic plates. Here we find Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Central America, Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

Damage to nature

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In a super-quake, the ground moves affecting both its natural structure, so that “is consistent expect a high amount of fragmented rock material ready to be mobilized,” says Acuña, who also said that “in multiple slopes and channels, both the Coast Range and the Los Andes, there is a sort of cellar detrital materials prepared to descend by different mechanisms, which depends only on the proper trigger process concurrency (earthquake). “So coastal and marine terraces sectors may be affected by upheavals or subsidence, and here we are talking about several meters displaced up or down.

Basically, we would expect the collapse of large natural structures and land subsidence in coastal areas, affecting river mouths and changing their courses, in addition to involvement in slopes and escarpments or cliffs, causing both collapses and landslides, and mudslides. Despite this, partially shown Acuña optimistic about some catastrophic scenarios: “The mountain is a cave as a whole seems unlikely, although we can not rule out that an important part of one of its flanks collapse generating a mass movement destructive characteristics “.

The damage in cities

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We talked about what might happen in natural environments, but what is even more concerned about the potential damage in urban areas with high concentration, which in a very short space many people could suffer the consequences of a Super-earthquake.

We will take the example of Chile, which suffered a massive earthquake of 8.8 degrees on 27 February 2010. The houses did not collapse entirely, and while there were structures that collapsed following the strong earthquake, the vast majority stood and runs until today.

U.S., Japan, New Zealand and Chile are the world’s most advanced countries in earthquake engineering, structural performance standards exist for the construction of buildings to withstand earthquakes. Benjamin Navarrete, Civil Constructor and academic in the School of Civil Engineering of the Catholic University of Chile, says the following philosophy continues today: “For low-intensity earthquakes no damage, earthquakes of medium intensity damage will be accepted in non-structural elements and components; earthquakes of great intensity, can cause damage to structural elements, but in no case will produce the collapse of the structure. This gives us a respite from what may happen in cities should not fall off precipitously nothing.

And another earthquake in Chile?

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We’ll go to the specific case of interest to a large percentage of our readers. We have already suffered recent major earthquakes, leaving the question of whether the structures that supported previous movements may stand in another cataclysmic event occurs.

Navarrete lights that gives us: “Logic says that those structures that were damaged by the earthquake of February 27, 2010, will respond differently to a new seismic event. However, it is expected that the structures have been severely damaged and repaired properly reinforced to withstand face well future seismic events. If it were operated properly or were repaired seismic surface-makeup-we call it, is expected that the structural response is poorer still face an earthquake of similar characteristics to those of 27F, with all that that means major damage and even collapse.

This means that things would be to worry about in the case of people living in structures that were badly damaged in previous events, so you should review the current state of things. But in the case of new buildings, Saragoni clarifies that Chile abide by rules established by law for the construction of new homes and buildings, with a judicial system after February 27, 2010 works great for punishing those who not meet the standard, which ensures that the structure is not going to fall if it is in good condition, has recently been revised or was made recently.

Tips to tackle the Super-earthquake

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We said: we do not believe that will happen, but reading these paragraphs never hurt anyone …

In the event that the land tremble again, we must follow the advice experts have been shouting for a long time ago. During the earthquake, Ruben Boroschek, Chief Division of Structures, Geotechnics Construction and Civil Engineering Department of the University of Chile, said that “in general the road is safe. The tall buildings with glass facades have been designed to withstand severe earthquakes, but not normal buildings “, so it would be a good idea to stay away from potential places pieces fall down a window, even if the facade of a structure is glass would not fall. In addition, people put pots, posters and other things that have no seismic protection. Therefore, it is best to catch the curb if it has sufficient width, thus reducing the risk of falling from buildings, but not stopping in the same street where we can be hit by a vehicle.

What if no warning? Boroschek advised climb concrete structures that are more than five floors, but run more than 20 meters above sea level. This must be done as soon as possible: “The times of arrival of the wave in Chile around about 15 minutes after he felt the vibration in which one could not stand,” adds the expert, who ended by saying that if we are in an apartment building or offices very high, we should not use stairs or elevators to lower during the movement itself, as these structures move too and it is unsafe to run. In fact, it’s smart to stay inside, away from large objects, furniture and breakable windows, until everything happens.

After that, you just might consider the idea of going to see what happened, assess damage and confirm if it really is over the world, and it still stands.

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