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What writers write when they 1) aren't writing, 2) are avoiding writing or 3) need a word count to convince their spouses they are writing.

Origami n' Stuff 4 Kids

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

april's fools and nature's fury

I suppose I should engage in light-hearted banter this April Fool's Day, but fools conspire to foil my bubbly demeanor. Witness the purported threat of the Conficker worm, poised to strike this day, burrowing through PCs, harvesting user names and passwords and erasing hard disks.

We all know what a con is, but what the hell is a ficker, aside from a domain name a web realtor hopes to sell for $4,350 and the surname of an obscure German historian? Sorry, historians and academicians, but Julius von Ficker doesn't ring a bell with me. I am told he "advocated and defended the theory that Austria, on account of its blending of races, was best fitted as successor of the old empire to secure the political advancement both of Central Europe and of Germany." Point to Mr. von Ficker for the blending of races; strike for all that empire talk.

Maybe if we imposed mandatory keyboard laws insuring the functionality of our consonants, malicious Mr. Conficker Hacker wouldn't be so darned testy. After all, without the letter L (turning ficker into flicker, for those who aren't following), there can be no Love.

So how did I get from fools to fury? Well, we all know about fools and fury, courtesy of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Mind you, I have nothing against good Mr. Jindal, his policies, or his 2012 presidential aspirations. For all I know, the man is competent, knowledgeable, and the life of the dinner party. My beef, as is that of anyone living in Alaska, Washington state, Hawaii or anywhere along the Ring of Fire, is with his ignorant stance on volcanoes, questioning why "something called 'volcano monitoring' " was included in the economic stimulus bill. Says Bobby the expert,
"Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington."

Which brings us to April Fool's Day and nature's fury.

On April 1, 1946 an earthquake off the Aleutian Islands with a surface magnitude of 7.8 triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami that killed 165 people (159 on Hawaii and six in Alaska). According to the Scripps Institute,
"The waves traveled southward to Hawaii with an average speed of roughly 490 miles an hour, a wave length of nearly 100 miles, and a height in the open sea which is thought to have been 2 feet or less. The height and violence of the wave attack on Hawaiian shores varied greatly: at some points the waves dashed up on the shore with great violence and to heights as great as 55 feet above sea level; elsewhere they rose slowly and without turbulence."

Two years later, the predecessor of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was established—this day, April 1, forever marks the start of Tsunami Awareness Month. More recently, on March 19, 2009 an undersea volcanic eruption in Tonga generated a five-hour tsunami watch across the Pacific Basin.

The death and destruction caused by the 2004 Sumatran Tsunami reminds us that we are at the mercy of geological forces. And not only from tsunamis—according to the Unites States Geological Service, there are 169 active volcanoes in the United States, two of which are now famous, Mount St. Helens and Kilauea (which has been erupting continuously since 1983).

The threat from volcanoes is real. In the past 500 years, over 200,000 people have lost their lives due to volcanic eruptions, and an estimated 500 million people will be at risk from volcanic hazards by the year 2000. We're talking earthquakes, toxic gases, lava, avalanches, landslides, tsunamis, pyroclastic flows (remember Pompeii?) and lahars.

Word out, Bobby. You lay off my volcanoes, and I'll lay off your hurricanes.

Tsunami statistics:
10 Deadliest Pacific Tsunamis
Date Source Deaths
22 May 1782 Taiwan 40000
20 Sep 1498 Japan 31000
28 Oct 1707 Japan 30000
15 Jun 1896 Japan 27122
13 Aug 1868 Chile 25674
27 May 1293 Japan 23024
21 May 1792 Japan 15030
29 Aug 1741 Hokkaido 15000
24 Apr 1771 Ryukyu Islands 13486
May 1765 China 10000

10 Deadliest Indian Ocean Tsunamis
Date Source Deaths
26 Dec 2004 Sumatra 225000
27 Aug 1883 Java/Sumatra 36500
26 Jun 1941 Andaman Sea 5000
3 Sep 1861 Sumatra 1700
16 Jun 1819 Arabian Sea 1543
28 Nov 1945 Arabian Sea 1000+
16 Feb 1861 Sumatra 905
2 Apr 1762 Bay of Bengal 500
19 Aug 1977 Sunda Islands 500
4 Jan 1907 Sumatra 400

10 Deadliest Atlantic Tsunamis
Date Source Deaths
1 Nov 1755 Portugal 60000
7 Jun 1692 Jamaica 2000
30 Jan 1607 England/Wales 2000
3 Oct 1780 Jamaica 300
7 May 1842 Haiti 300
6 Dec 1917 Nova Scotia 200
4 Aug 1946 Dominican Rep 100
7 Sep 1882 Panama 65
11 Oct 1918 Puerto Rico 42
18 Nov 1929 Newfoundland 29

10 Deadliest Mediterranean Sea Tsunamis
Date Source Deaths
1410 BCE Greek islands 100000+
28 Dec 1908 Italy 10000+
6 Feb 1783 Italy 1500+
11 Jan 1693 Italy 1000+
20 Sep 1867 Greece 12
16 Oct 1979 France 10
13 Dec 1990 Italy 6
9 Jul 1956 Greece 4
20 Oct 1859 Greece 2
11 Sep 1930 Italy 2

LiveScience: Mystery of Deadly 1946 Tsunami Deepens

Geological Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Tech: Volcanic Hazards

©2009 Tammy Yee

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