If there is any side benefit from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s aiding some research scientists. A concurrent reduction in worldwide vibration, has accompanied the precipitous worldwide drop in human activity.
Automobile, heavy equipment, train and aircraft movement, factory operations, construction activity, all contribute to “crust vibrations.” Scientists monitoring seismic activity have to adjust measurements to account for what they refer to as “background seismic noise.” With the decrease in human noise, they are able to get more precise readings. With the better data they can more accurately predict volcanic behavior or pinpoint the epicenter of an earthquake.
Meanwhile, humans are not the only species inconvenienced by the coronavirus. With restaurants closed, the rat population must travel further afield to find something to eat. With little in restaurant dumpsters and all of us cooking at home and creating more food waste… well you can figure it out.
I lived twenty-plus years in Sonoma County California, Santa Rosa, to be exact. As an emigrant from Oregon, I eventually realized that a crack in the wall or a sticking — and later unsticking — door was the normal. Earthquakes occur literally every day; most are felt only by scientific seismic equipment. In my two decades I felt only several. The most severe woke me early one morning in 2014. That one did most of its damage to the town of Napa, about thirty-five miles away.
Santa Rosa lies just east of the San Andreas Fault line (magnitude 7.6 in 1906 and) and right on top of the Hayward/Rodgers Creek Fault system (magnitude 5.6 and 5.7 in 1969). San Andreas follows the west — SanFrancisco — side of San Francisco Bay; Hayward/Rodgers Creek the east — Oakland — side of the Bay.
The current occupant of the White House says that the fires burning in the West are simply the result of bad environmental laws and water wasted by letting rivers flow into the ocean. (Scientists disagree; they say it’s the changing climate.) But maybe the folks in Malibu want to agree with him. They might want less water in the ocean. Melting icebergs have already covered beaches and sand, and now the water is working on coastal cliffs. The U.S. Geological Survey projects are that by the end of this century, cliffs will have eroded as much as 130 feet inland. Much of the California coastline is already protected by sea walls, which have the unintended consequence of speeding up the loss of sand on the beaches.
Oklahoma began last Labor Day weekend by tying the record set in 2011 for its strongest earthquake: 5.6 magnitude, centered fifty miles west of Tulsa. The state has recorded thousands of earthquakes during the past few years. In 2009 Oklahoma suffered nine quakes over 3.0, the strength than can be felt. In 2015, there were 907. So far this year, 400. The state’s official position is that the upsurge has nothing to do with the hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – that has increased exponentially over that period.