Is Earth Moving Under Our Feet: Haiti, Chile and Taiwan?
The Ring of Fire

London, UK - 4th March 2010, 18:35 GMT

Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

Recent events offer evidence that the ground beneath our feet is literally shifting and scientists as well as global market traders alike are noting the effects. First we had the Haiti earthquake back in January, then we had the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile last month, and now there appears to be yet another earthquake in southern Taiwan. The rash of tectonic movements around the Pacific "Ring of Fire" is heightening concern that Japan -- the most earthquake-prone country in the world -- is next in line for a major earthquake. Japan is bracing itself after dozens of rare giant oarfish -- traditionally the harbinger of a powerful earthquake -- have been washed ashore or caught in fishermen's nets.

The Ring of Fire


Reports are coming in that a 6.4 earthquake has hit southern Taiwan. Government agencies report that injuries appear to be limited. Television images show damage to bridges and buildings. The quake knocked out power to over half a million customers and caused a fire in a textile factory. The Central Weather Bureau said that more than 120 aftershocks had been recorded since the quake occurred. Buildings in the country’s capital Taipei swayed for several minutes. The quake caused five fires, and six high-speed trains to suspend operations.


It's been only five days since a massive 8.8 earthquake hit Chile, causing severe damage near the epicentre that killed almost 800 people, destroyed 1.5 million houses and caused over USD 30 billion worth of damage. The earthquake was the seventh highest ever recorded. At magnitude 8.8, Chile's earthquake released almost 1,000 times more energy than the one in Haiti in January.

NASA Scientist Richard Gross and his colleagues at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California have calculated that the recent Chile quake could have cut 1.26 microseconds off the length of a day. He found the Earth's axis has moved by around 3 inches during the 8.8 magnitude quake, shortening the length of the day.

Chile lies along one of the most active parts of the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the Nazca tectonic plate thrusts down beneath the South American plate. Over the past 40 years, the country has suffered a dozen quakes at least as powerful as the magnitude 7.0 in Haiti. The magnitude 9.5 Chilean earthquake in 1960 was the world's strongest of the 20th century.


Last month, a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit the impoverished island nation of Haiti, killing over 200,000 people. It destroyed their already fragile infrastructure.

Clusters: Are the Quakes connected?

Are all the three recent earthquakes somewhat connected? When there is an unusually high number of big quakes in quick succession, scientists call them clusters. The US Geological Survey (USGS) says clusters happen after a large earthquake hits. That triggers a domino effect. The stress on the ground shifts, and a series of tremors soon follow. On January 12th, a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti. Then February 26th, a tremor of the same magnitude rattled Japan. The next day, February 27th, an 8.8 quake devastated Chile. Then on March 4th, Taiwan got hit with a 6.4 earthquake. Around the rim of the Pacific Ocean are many volcanoes. The rim of the Pacific Ocean also is the scene of much earthquake activity. These volcanoes are most typically found in the regions where subduction is taking place. The ring of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean is called the "Ring of Fire". The earth is doing what it always does. Adjusting the pressure on the tectonic plates.


The concerns about another earthquake in Japan have been further stoked by the unexplained appearance of oarfish, ryugu no tsukai, that are known traditionally as the messengers from the Sea God's Palace. The giant oarfish can grow up to five metres in length and are usually found at depths between 1,000 metres and 200 metres from the surface. Long and slender with a dorsal fin traversing the length of their bodies, the oarfish resemble a snake. In recent weeks, 10 specimens have been found either washed ashore or in fishing nets, all on the northern coast of Japan. According to traditional Japanese beliefs, the fish rise to the surface and beach themselves to warn of an impending earthquake. Some scientists suggest that bottom-dwelling fish may be susceptible to movements in seismic fault lines and act in uncharacteristic ways in advance of an earthquake.

Where next in the "Ring of Fire"?


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