said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”
“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”
This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.
“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”
It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history.
About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.
In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2
, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2
from an earthquake of similar magnitude.
“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”
The statement came as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan slammed Iran’s support for Yemen’s Houthis as the rebel force launched multiple attacks against Saudi Arabia over the weekend. Sullivan repeated US accusations that Tehran is supplying missiles and drones to the Houthis, violating a United Nations arms embargo.
It is clear that one major remaining issue in the Vienna talks is Iran’s demand to remove sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the Revolutionary Guard, IRGC. Multiple reports have indicated the Biden Administration is weighing its options regarding the Iranian demand.
Opposition both in the United States and abroad has been strong against taking such a step. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern over the possibility of removing the IRGC from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
Israel’s prime minister and foreign minister forcefully and publicly opposed the notion in a statement on March 18, while the United Arab Emirates is reportedly “shocked” at the notion.
Media reports have said that the Biden administration has an option to remove the FTO designation in exchange for a promise by Tehran not to use the IRGC and its proxy forces in the region to harm US interests. Both Israel and its Arab friends in the region view a possible reliance on Tehran’s promises as a naïve and dangerous notion.
It is not clear when and if the Vienna talks will resume. Price on Monday said he can offer no information and urged Tehran to free “innocent Americans and others” held in Iran, which is Washington’s “top priority.”
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have had difficulties in their dealings with Washington, which last year took steps distancing itself from Persian Gulf allies. The Biden team removed the Houthis from its terror designation and restricted weapons sales to the Saudi coalition fighting in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE which had close relations with the Trump administration have not responded to Biden’s calls for more oil supplies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and have taken a neutral posture toward Moscow.
Price tired to minimize disagreements with the UAE when asked about the visit of Syrian president Bashar al Assad to the Emirates this week, which the administration has criticized.
Our Emirati partners, they are a partner of ours, and they will continue to be and are an important partner of the United States. We share a number of interests, including the security interests, our shared interest in bringing to a close this conflict in Yemen. We have a shared interest in terms of regional stability, in terms of pushing back on Iran, in terms of helping our Emirati partners defend themselves against the attacks that have emanated from Yemen, from the Houthis. And of course, we are committed to all of that,” the spokesman said.
One key senator, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he believed such an attack could force NATO allies, including the United States, to invoke their collective defense under Article 5 of the alliance’s charter and retaliate against Russia — especially if nuclear fallout drifts over the Ukrainian border and kills or sickens civilians living in Poland or other NATO countries.
“As you detonate a nuclear weapon inside of Ukraine depending on what it is they detonate, even in a demonstration, that would spread radioactive material that would cross borders potentially,” said Rubio, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who frequently tweets his analysis of the Russian invasion.
“If radioactive material blows across the Polish border, they would argue they’ve been attacked,” he added.
If radioactive material blows across the Polish border, they would argue they’ve been attacked.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.
“Radiation kills people; it certainly creates long-term health problems,” he continued. “So we’re dealing in uncharted territory at that point. The danger in this process always is that … someone will do something that they don’t consider to cross the line. But the people they’re aiming at do consider it to be crossing a certain line. And that’s how you find yourself in escalations.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a decorated Iraq War veteran who serves on the Armed Services Committee, agreed with Rubio: “If any of the fallout from that drifts over, I mean, that could be considered to be an attack” on NATO allies.
MARCH 11, 202209:50
Duckworth said she needed to study the issue more before commenting further on such a sensitive topic. But Article 5 stipulates that an attack on any NATO country is an attack on all of its members.
Any mention of nuclear warfare spurs images of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II more than 75 years ago. The twin atomic bombs flattened those Japanese cities, killing tens of thousands of civilians and creating massive mushroom clouds that could be seen for miles.
But a New York Times story on Monday detailed how Putin, feeling cornered in the conflict with Ukraine, could detonate a smaller, tactical nuclear weapon to try to gain the upper hand in a nearly monthlong war in which Russia has suffered significant and embarrassing military losses.
Experts told the newspaper that Putin could fire a nuclear weapon at an uninhabited area or over the North Sea in a bid to deter NATO allies and get Ukraine to surrender. In recent weeks, Putin himself has referred to Russia as “one of the most powerful nuclear states” and ordered his generals to put Russia’s nuclear forces on “special regime of combat duty alert.”
“I think it would take us into a place we have not been since Nagasaki, where an actual nuclear device was intentionally detonated as part of a military campaign, even if it wasn’t directed at specific targets,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., told NBC News. “So that’s crossing a huge red line. And I think the whole world would be not just shocked, but convinced of the irresponsibility of Putin.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who traveled to Poland and Germany over the weekend to speak with Ukrainian refugees and U.S. troops, argued that there is no such thing as a “small” nuclear bomb.
Such a weapon would inflict “generational damage” on the region, whether it is deployed over a populated area or not, said Capito, who formerly led a Senate subcommittee on clean air and nuclear safety.
Rubio, who is a member of the “Gang of Eight” lawmakers who receive the most sensitive classified intelligence briefings, said he does not believe a Russian nuclear attack is “imminent.” But he said going nuclear is in Russia’s playbook and is an option that Rubio has been thinking about since the start of Putin’s military campaign.
“Their military doctrine that they’ve exercised anticipates that if they’re losing a conventional war against NATO, that they would detonate a nuclear weapon or even use one against NATO troops to sort of escalate and force everyone to the negotiating table,” Rubio told reporters.
“I’m not seeing anything that indicates that would be imminent, but that’d be a pretty dramatic moment in the history of the world,” he said.
Amid talk of a potential nuclear attack, President Joe Biden this week is preparing to travel to Europe, where he will join other NATO leaders in Brussels and then go on to Poland, where he will thank leaders for taking in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.
Russia’s nuclear capabilities almost certainly will be among the issues that Biden discusses with his European allies. Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. has not changed its “nuclear posture” following Putin’s recent threats but is “constantly monitoring for that contingency.”
“We take it as seriously as one could possibly take it,” Sullivan said.
While the U.S. is in the process of sending Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars in lethal weapons and other military aid, Biden has been cautious not to escalate tensions with a nuclear-armed Russia. The commander-in-chief has rejected desperate pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for NATO allies to impose a no-fly zone or send fighter jets, predicting such actions would spark “World War III.”
“The magnitude of Russia’s cyber capacity is fairly consequential and it’s coming,” Biden said.
Reed, the head of the Armed Services panel, predicted that a wave of new cyberattacks would likely hit the U.S. and other Ukrainian allies before Putin turned to a nuclear weapon. He said it’s unclear if cyberattacks would trigger a NATO Article 5 response given that they have been ongoing for years.
“I would assume that cyberattacks would precede any type of nuclear attack given that there’s a certain deniability, and it can be managed much more adroitly, the targets, the impacts, etc.,” Reed said in the interview.
“Cyber is just a gray area. … There’s a line between state-directed, state-organized and just criminal elements everywhere, but still, this cyber battle has been going on constantly at every moment.”
Kremlin spokesperson says Russia has a ‘concept of domestic security’ that outlines when nuclear weapons can be used.
Published On 22 Mar 202222 Mar 2022
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said in an interview that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence were threatened.
Peskov’s comment came as CNN interviewer Christiane Amanpour pushed him on whether he was “convinced or confident” that President Vladimir Putin would not use the nuclear option in the Ukrainian context.
“We have a concept of domestic security, and it’s public. You can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used,” Peskov said on Tuesday.
“So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it can be used in accordance with our concept.”
Putin last month ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert.
In line with the order, Russia’s defence ministry said on February 28 that its nuclear missile forces and northern and Pacific fleets had been placed on enhanced combat duty, the Interfax news agency reported.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on March 14 that “the prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility”.Sign up for Al JazeeraWeekly Newsletter
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Peskov also told CNN that Russia’s war in Ukraine was “going on strictly in accordance with the plans and the purposes that were established beforehand”.
The comments come after United States President Joe Biden warned that Putin was considering using chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine, as he described Moscow’s tactics as increasingly “brutal”.
So, when Putin said his country’s nuclear weapons were on high alert, what did he mean? Also, how many nuclear weapons exist, who has them, and how powerful are they?
Nuclear weapons analysts estimate that the world’s nine nuclear states—China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—have around 13,000 nuclear warheads in total, according to the Arms Control Association. However, this estimate is based only on publicly available information; there could be many more that states have not disclosed.
“We know which countries have nuclear weapons, but we don’t necessarily know how many nuclear weapons they have; Israel, for instance, does not publicly acknowledge its program,” Anne Harrington, a senior lecturer in international relations at Cardiff University in the U.K., told Live Science. “The number of nuclear weapons China has is also a major subject of debate.”
In fact, “there was actually an increase in deployed warheads last year , and all nine nuclear-armed states are either upgrading or increasing their arsenals,” Jones said.
“Although it’s difficult to know definitively exactly how nuclear arsenals are changing, we assess that China, India, North Korea, Pakistan and the United Kingdom, as well as possibly Russia, are all increasing the number of nuclear weapons in their military stockpiles,” said Matt Korda, a senior research associate and project manager for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
HOW QUICKLY CAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS BE DEPLOYED?
As for how quickly a nuclear weapon could be deployed and how many are on “high alert,” there is “a bit of a spectrum,” Korda told Live Science. The U.S. and Russia keep a portion of their nuclear weapons on prompt alert, meaning they could be ready to launch “in under 15 minutes,” he said. A 2015 paper by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that the U.S. and Russia each had around 900 weapons on such hair-trigger alert.
Other countries—including China, Israel, India and Pakistan—keep their nuclear weapons in central storage, meaning they would have to be taken out and “mated to their delivery systems in a crisis,” Korda said. This could take days, or even weeks, to arrange.
And others, such as the United Kingdom, have nuclear weapons “deployed at all times on ballistic missile submarines,” but these are kept in detargeted mode and would require “hours or days to be brought to launch-ready status,” Korda said.
HOW POWERFUL ARE THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS OUT THERE?
Nuclear weapons vary in their destructive power. In the United States’ current nuclear arsenal, the most powerful bomb is the B83, which has a maximum yield of 1.2 megatons, making it 60 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. According to the Nuclear Weapon Archive, 650 B83s are in “active service.”
However, the destructive capability of the B83 pales in comparison with the most powerful bomb ever made: the Soviet Union’s “Tsar Bomba,” which had a yield of 50 megatons—around 2,500 times more powerful than the weapon that destroyed Nagasaki. The Tsar Bomba was a one-off designed to showcase the Soviet Union’s military might, and to date, no further iterations of the weapon have been made.
Another key distinction is whether a nuclear weapon is categorized as “strategic” or “nonstrategic,” Korda said.
Strategic weapons can “reach from Moscow to Washington, D.C., while nonstrategic, tactical nuclear weapons have shorter ranges,” said Samuel Hickey, a research analyst at the nonprofit Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
“On the surface, it seems logical to assume that ‘nonstrategic’ weapons have lower yields and that ‘strategic’ weapons have higher yields,” Korda said in an email. That’s usually, but not always, the case.
“There is no way to use one [nuclear weapon] without escalating a crisis and murdering civilians,” Hickey told Live Science. “Just this past January, the leaders of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States together affirmed that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,’ as the consequences of a single weapon detonation would be catastrophic.”
HOW ARE NUCLEAR WEAPONS STORED?
While each country has its own specific storage system, storage facilities are generally blast-resistant and are often buried underground to “limit the damage of an accidental detonation and to protect from an attack,” Hickey said.
In the United States, nuclear weapons are “kept under cryptographic combination lock to prevent unauthorized use,” Hickey said. In theory, only the president has the authority to sanction their use, but according to Hickey, “if the cryptographic code is input or bypassed, the nuclear weapons could be armed in a matter of minutes.” However, Hickey also confirmed that these weapons would need to be “affixed to a missile or deployed on an aircraft” in order to be launched.
Given that the launch of a nuclear weapon would, in all likelihood, be met with immediate retaliation and could lead to all-out global nuclear war, is there a chance that all nuclear weapons could be decommissioned for the greater good? Could there ever be a future without nuclear weapons?
“I don’t think this is going to happen,” said Holger Nehring, chair in contemporary European history at the University of Stirling in Scotland. “Nuclear weapons are mainly a form of deterrence against nuclear attack, so states have no real interest in getting rid of them. Entirely getting rid of nuclear weapons would mean a very high level of trust between all states in the international system, and this is unlikely to be achieved.”
Andrew Futter, a professor of international politics at the University of Leicester in England, agreed. “We have probably reached a point now where further big reductions are unlikely,” he told Live Science.
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07:19, Tue, Mar 22, 2022 | UPDATED: 16:05, Tue, Mar 22, 2022
Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine continues to rage on as eight people were reported dead yesterday morning after a shopping centre and a number of houses were shelled in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Putin of war crimes in the besieged city of Mariupol, where 300,000 citizens are trapped without food, water or power amid heavy Russian shelling. An estimated 90 percent of the city’s buildings have been damaged and destroyed, yet Ukraine has ignored Russia’s demand to give up Mariupol, saying there is “no question of surrender”.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk suggested that the assault on Mariupol is personal for Putin, because the Russian President failed to capture the city eight years earlier when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.
Putin was condemned across the world after launching the invasion of Ukraine last month and the West duly responded by hitting Russia with severe sanctions.
Yet, the leader then ordered his military to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, which the US labelled “totally unacceptable”.
Putin’s decision to explicitly brandish Russia’s nuclear arsenal sent shockwaves across the western world, however there is scepticism as to whether the President would ever resort to using such weapons.