Monday, April 27, 2015

The Big One!

The earthquake in Nepal is our latest reminder that the Big One could hit here at any moment.  There is no escape.  The surface of the earth is composed of moving tectonic plates.  When they move the surface shakes and breaks.  When two plates jam up against each other, as they do in the Indian subcontinent, the shaking and breaking is particularly strong.

In South Asia the Indian Plate is up against the Eurasian Plate and moving faster (two inches a year), so collisions are inevitable, which is what happened in Nepal this weekend.  We can’t stop it.  We can’t predict when it will happen.  All we know for sure is that the plates are moving and will keep moving.  They’ve been doing it for hundreds of millions of years.

In earlier times the collision of these two plates created the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya Mountains.  As the Indian plate moves north it is like sediment being bunched up like earth before a plow, except on a gigantic scale, so the Plateau keeps rising and the mountains keep getting higher.

Earthquake resistant construction helps.  We benefit from modern methods that mitigate the damage.  Not so in Nepal, where old structures and flimsily-built new buildings offer no protection.  But no matter what we do, when a really Big Big One hits, we won’t be protected.

In the meantime – have a nice day.


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