Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.
Israeli Officer Says Toppling AP High-rise in Gaza Was ‘A Mistake’
‘The operational achievement was disproportionate to the diplomatic damage and the harm to Israel’s public relations it created’
The airstrike on the building housing various international media, including The Associated Press in Gaza City in May.Credit: Mahmud Hams
Yaniv Kubovich Oct. 25, 2021
The Israeli army’s decision to attack a high-rise that housed the Associated Press news agency in Gaza was a ‘mistake,’ an Israeli general leading the investigation into May’s hostilities said.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Nitzan Alon, who conducted the investigation into Operation Guardian of the Walls and how it influenced public opinion, said that destroying the AP tower created severe PR damage for Israel.
“Not everyone in the military agrees, but I’m convinced it was a mistake. The operational achievement was totally disproportionate to the diplomatic damage and the harm to public relations it created, and we should learn from this,” Alon said at a conference held by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
He also referred to the impact on Gaza residents, saying that he believes “we are still very limited in our ability to influence broad public opinion in Gaza during combat, and pressure decision makers in Hamas.”
On May 15, the IDF bombed and toppled a tower in Gaza in which many foreign media outlets were located, including AP and Al-Jazeera. According to the IDF, the building contained “military assets belonging to the military intelligence of the Hamas terror organization.”
The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said that the building contained the offices of civilian media outlets, behind which Hamas was hiding, using them as human shields. “A terror organization is deliberately placing its military assets in the heart of a civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”
The president and CEO of the Associated Press news agency, Gary Pruitt, condemned the attack and said that he was shocked and horrified by it. Pruitt added that the agency would ask for clarifications from Israel’s government.
The al-Jazeera network called the act a “barbaric attack” which contravenes international law, adding that it would sue Israel’s government.
Tehran, Oct 25 (Prensa Latina) Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for Islamic unity, whose main indicator, he said, is the cause of the Palestinian people, in a speech reported by HispanTV on Monday.
‘If Muslims unite, the Palestinian problem will be solved in the best possible way,’ Khamenei said in front of envoys to the International Islamic Unity Conference taking place in Tehran, coinciding with Prophet Muhammad’s birth anniversary.
The more support there is for reviving the rights of the Palestinian people, the closer we will be to Islamic unity, he stressed.
Some made a big mistake and sinned by normalizing relations with Israel, he added.
Khamenei stressed that agreeing with the Israeli Zionist regime is tantamount to disunity among Muslims and urged to rectify this mistake and compensate the oppressed Palestinian people.
Patience with Iran ‘wearing thin’, says US envoy
WASHINGTON: The Biden administration said on Monday that diplomatic efforts to get Iran back to nuclear negotiations are at a critical place and that international patience with Iranian delays in returning to the talks is wearing thin.
The US special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, told reporters there is a deep and growing concern about Iran’s continued intransigence and refusal to commit to a date to resume the negotiations in Vienna.
Malley said the US and its partners still want a diplomatic solution to bring both America and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew from. But, he said they are considering alternatives to the diplomatic path, although a decision will be dependent on Iran’s actions.
Were in a critical place, he said, noting that the Vienna talks were suspended after a sixth round in June due to Iran’s elections and that new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has had plenty of time since taking office in August to decide on a policy.
At this point its hard to find an innocent explanation as to why its taking so long, Malley said. The Plan B being implemented right now appears to be the Iranian one, and that’s something we have to be prepared for.
His comments follow a series of high-level meetings in Washington, the Gulf and Europe about how to proceed in the effort to get Iran back to the table for serious discussions on how to limit its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
Malley met on Friday with European officials in Paris after which France urged Iran to curb nuclear activities of unprecedented gravity. Those talks followed meetings he held with Gulf Arab states earlier last week.
Malley’s travels came after a series of high-level meetings in Washington between senior Biden administration officials and the foreign ministers of Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union’s diplomatic chief.
They have warned that Iran will face greater international isolation, new economic penalties and possibly military action if it does not return to the Vienna talks.
The consensus comes amid growing concerns that Tehran is not serious about returning to the negotiations. It also comes as the Biden administration, which had made rejoining the accord a priority in its first months in office, and others, have become increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for such negotiations even if they do resume.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2021
Some parts of attack plans for Tehran’s nuclear sites will be viable shortly, others could take over a year, ToI learns; raids on Iranian proxies in Syria getting more difficult
By Judah Ari Gross 25 Oct 2021, 5:00 pm
The Israeli Air Force will begin practicing for a strike on Iran’s nuclear program beginning next year, having set aside funding and updated its training schedule for the mission, The Times of Israel has learned.
In light of growing uncertainty regarding a return by Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, amid long-stalled negotiations with the United States, the Israel Defense Forces in recent months has ramped up its efforts to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear facilities.
Following the signing of the JCPOA in 2015, Israel put the issue of a military strike on the Iranian nuclear program on the back burner, allowing the IDF to invest its resources into other areas. But following the US abrogation of the nuclear deal in 2018 and Iran’s subsequent violations of the agreement since then — which picked up considerably ahead of and during the stalled talks — the matter has taken on renewed importance to Israel, which sees an Iranian nuclear bomb as a near existential threat.
In the beginning of this year, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi announced he had instructed the military to begin drawing up fresh attack plans, and last week the government reportedly allocated billions of shekels toward making those plans viable.
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning… We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
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The Times of Israel has learned that some aspects of the IAF’s strike plan, which is still in the “draft” stage, could be ready within a short period of time, while others would take more than a year to be fully actionable.
Preparing for such a strike has become a top priority for the Israeli Air Force and making the necessary preparations has required changes to its training schedule.
In addition to having to find ways to strike Iranian facilities that are buried deep underground, requiring specialized munitions and tactics, the Israeli Air Force will have to deal with increasingly sophisticated Iranian air defenses in order to conduct such a strike. The air force will also have to prepare for an expected retaliation against Israel by Iran and its allies throughout the region.Advertisement
Syria strikes getting more complicated
While preparing for a possible strike on Iran, the IAF has continued to conduct airstrikes in Syria against Iran and its proxies there, an effort known in the military as the “campaign between campaigns,” often referred to by its Hebrew acronym Mabam. Most recently, Israel reportedly attacked three sites on Monday morning that were linked to Hezbollah’s efforts to establish a permanent base of operation on the Syrian Golan, close to the Israeli border.
Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria over the years, but in recent months carrying out such operations has gotten more complicated, the IAF believes, as Syria has improved its air defense capabilities, in part due to upgraded Iranian-made components, allowing it to respond more quickly than in the past to Israeli strikes. In at least one case, an Iranian-improved Syrian air defense battery fired at Israeli jets, but it missed its mark.
While Israel has not lost a fighter jet to these countermeasures since 2018, when an F-16 was shot down by a Syrian S-200 missile, these remain a threat to both the Israeli aircraft conducting the strike and to people on the ground, as could be seen by the shrapnel that rained down on Tel Aviv from a failed interception attempt by Syria last month.
Also making these operations more difficult, Iran has recently begun deploying its domestically produced advanced air defense systems in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon to protect its forces and proxies in those countries from IDF strikes, The Times of Israel has learned.
Though these anti-aircraft systems have never hit the Israeli jets — the Israel Defense Forces on Monday said they had yet to actually be fired at Israeli aircraft — the Israeli Air Force sees them as a new and serious threat to its campaign against Iranian entrenchment in the region. They have proven difficult to counter as the various components of the air defense batteries — the radars, missile launchers and command centers — can be spread out across large geographic areas, making it nearly impossible to destroy them entirely in one counterattack.
In light of these improved Syrian and newly employed Iranian defensive capabilities, the IAF in recent months has updated its methods, using larger formations with more aircraft to conduct strikes on more targets at one time, instead of carrying out more strikes using smaller formations, The Times of Israel has learned.Advertisement
With two months to go in 2021, the IAF believes it is on track to conduct as many strikes in Syria this year as last. (Last December, the military said it had struck some 50 targets in Syria during 2020.)
Despite rumblings from Russian officials in recent weeks over alleged Israeli strikes in Syria, the IAF does not believe that Moscow has changed its policies on the matter or plans to interfere with Israeli efforts against Iran’s presence in Syria. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin agreed to maintain Moscow’s tacit acceptance of these strikes during his meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sochi, according to Israeli officials
Francois MurphyOctober 25, 20213:03 PM MDTLast Updated a day ago
VIENNA, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Iran is expanding its enrichment of uranium beyond the highly enriched threshold of 20% purity at a Natanz plant where it is already enriching to 60%, but the new activity does not involve keeping the product, the U.N nuclear watchdog said on Monday.
The move is likely to help Iran refine its knowledge of the enrichment process – something Western powers generally condemn because it is irreversible – but since this time the product is not being collected it will not immediately accelerate Iran’s production of uranium enriched to close to weapons-grade.
It has, however, prompted the International Atomic Energy Agency to “increase the frequency and intensity of its safeguards activities” at the above-ground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz, the IAEA said in a report seen by Reuters. As of around 90% uranium is considered weapons-grade.
The IAEA said in a statement outlining the report that Iran informed it last week of changes to the setup of centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, at the plant – Iran would feed uranium enriched to up to 20% into limited numbers of extra centrifuges without collecting the product.
“On 25 October 2021, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding (uranium hexafluoride gas) enriched up to 20% U-235 into a single IR-6 centrifuge in R&D line 2 at PFEP and that the resulting product and tails streams were being re-combined,” the IAEA report said, meaning that after separating the enriched product it was mixed with the centrifuge’s waste and not kept.
Iran had said it planned to also feed uranium enriched to up to 20% into other single centrifuges or small- to medium-sized cascades, or clusters, of machines on the same line, but those were not being fed at the time, the IAEA said.
Iran has yet to announce a date to resume discussions in Vienna about reviving the 2015 nuclear pact under which it curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from U.S., EU and U.N. economic sanctions.
Then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the pact in 2018 and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions. About a year later, Iran started violating some of the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment.
Reporting by Francois Murphy Editing by Chris Reese and Nick Macfie
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Hamas threatens escalation if Israel fails to transfer $8 million in funds for its workers salaries, reach deal on Gaza reconstruction efforts. “Our patience has run out,” Hamas official says.
Israel must either authorize the transfer of $8 million in funds for the payment of the terrorist organization’s employees or face an escalation, Hamas has warned according to reports.
The Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip Mohammed Al-Emadi is set to arrive in the region this week in an attempt to find a solution to Hamas’ demand for cash to pay its officials, Israel Hayom has learned. Al-Emadi, who visited Israel and Gaza just last week, announced a framework had been reached to allow the transfer of employee salaries, however, senior Hamas officials said the funds had not been transferred.
“Gaza has reached boiling point,” they said, “and all of the pressure will be directed at Israel.”
Palestinian media outlets quoted close associates of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar as saying, “Hamas is done being patient. Now, all options are on the table.”
Another cause for concern is the lack of progress in negotiations in Cairo on the rehabilitation of Gaza and efforts to cement the ceasefire reached following May’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, as well as reports talks to negotiate a prisoner-exchange deal had reached a dead end.
According to reports coming out of Gaza, Hamas has denied Egyptian reports in which senior Cairo officials said significant progress had been made in indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on these issues. This in addition to a deal between Israel and Hamas within the framework of which Israel would release Hamas prisoners, including those with blood on their hands, in return for the return of the bodies of Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, who were killed in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, and information on the fate of the Israeli captives being held alive in Hamas captivity, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
A Hamas official said, “We have informed our Egyptian brothers that our patience has run out,” senior Hamas politburo official Izzat al-Risheq told Voice of Palestine Radio. “Israel is creating difficulties, not allowing the transfer of funds to Gaza, and we are being asked to grit our teeth. We won’t agree to that.”
Next week will be critical for the coastal enclave, a senior Hamas official told Israel Hayom.
“If Israel continues to procrastinate and doesn’t allow the transfer of salary payments, the escalation will come. All the easing of restrictions on the Gaza Strip are a joke. The Egyptians are on Israel’s side for the meantime, but they also understand who is guilty here. Hamas is interested in a deal, and Israel is only making things difficult. This will blow up in Israel’s face,” the official warned.