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Saturday, April 21, 2018


On 27 February 2010 I received an e-mail from The Huffington Post.  One of the editors asked me to please write an article as soon as possible and report on the tsunami coming to Hawaii from the Chile earthquake.  They knew, of course, that I lived in Honolulu.  There was a problem, for I was in Amsterdam, which they did not know.

Turns out that my hotel room TV accessed CNN, which had two cameras covering the incoming disaster, one watching Hilo Bay and the other, Waikiki.  If I were back home, I certainly would not have driven to the coastline to report for HuffPo, anyway.  So I began my reportage with:

I’m on an around the world odyssey, which you can follow through my HuffPost postings. Well, my most exciting day is happening right in front of me watching the 8.8 Chile earthquake cataclysm on CNN from the Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam. Thus, from half a world away, I’m missing what I’ve long imagined: a graphic view of a major tsunami decimating Honolulu from my penthouse.

Click on Hawaii Tsunami? to read the entire article.

Back in Amsterdam, I had just come back from a walk around town and stopped by a smart shop.  For those not in the know, coffee shops are where you can smoke marijuana and smart shops provide magic mushrooms and truffles.  Actually, they're all illegal in the Netherlands, but there is little actual enforcement.  Magic mushrooms, though, have generally not been available for a decade or so, but magic truffles are tolerated.

Okay, anyway, here I was, with an article I was composing for HuffPo and a small container of magic truffles.  These are blackish, crumbly morsels the weight of three raisinets (those chocolate covered raisins).  An important must is to take it on an empty stomach.  Well, I no doubt ruined the effect by tossing them into a glass of  Cabernet Sauvignon, so, in the process of creating my most popular posting ever, I don't think there was any psychedelic influence.  However, the following year I did it the correct way and it turned out to be frighteningly colorful, and evocative of Salvador Dali.
In any case, here is the rather simple Planet Earth and Humanity posting I had on 27 February 2010, which drew 3,356 visitors, a total that was not exceeded until this year, when one day it zoomed up past 25,000...and the subject matter had to do with Star Wars.

Well, Hawaii dodged a bullet. We survived the tsunami from Chile. You can click on Hawaii Tsunami Information for the latest.

I'll keep the latest information at the top. The tsunami reached a height of about 6 feet in French Polynesia.

As of 12:20PM, there was a recession of 3 feet and a rise of 3 feet around Hilo. Thus, it's official, a reasonably significant tsunami affected Hawaii.

Thank heavens, the 35-foot Hilo monster of 1960 (the photo to the right) did not materialize this time. At this point, nothing official from a largely abandoned (one person was shown walking to the shore) Waikiki Beach, although there are three surfers awaiting something. Not too smart. The reef off Ala Moana Beach did show for a while, exhibiting some receding waters.


Well, we now all know that an earthquake, measured with a Moment Magnitude of 8.8, struck just off the coast near Concepcion, Chile at 06:34 GMT (03:34 Chile and 20:34 Hawaii). A tsunami warning has been issued, and Hilo is expected to be affected at 11:19 Saturday morning. It was almost half a century ago (22May60) that the largest earthquake on record (9.5) hit Chile, causing 61 deaths in Hilo.  (To the left is a typical photo in Chile.)

Honolulu arrival time is 11:25 AM. Sirens were delayed to blare at 6AM. CNN has featured the state and I have been watching for hours. Anyway, one report seems frightening:

The Pacific tsunami warning centre said the quake had generated a wave that could cause destruction along nearby shores "and could also be a threat to more distant coasts". It issued a tsunami warning for Chile, Peru and Hawaii, while Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica are also on alert.

"Chile probably got the brunt force of the tsunami already. So probably the worst has already happened in Chile," said Victor Sardina, geophysicist at the centre. "The tsunami was pretty big too. We reported some places around 8ft. And it's quite possible it would be higher in other areas."

The centre warned that waves up to 4.8 metres high could hit the coasts of the Hawaiian islands, with the first reaching Hawaii at 9pm GMT. "Urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property," the centre said in a bulletin. "All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face."  (The photo to the right is Hilo after the 1960 tsunami.)
The recent Haiti quake was a 7.0 (there were 160,000 deaths) so how much more powerful was the Chile earthquake today? At one time, the Richter Scale was used, so the shaking amplitude in Chile was about 60 times worse. Today, however, the Moment Magnitude Scale is used, and the resultant quake was about 600 times more powerful in the amount of energy released.  

Okay, that was my most popular posting for almost nine years.  For informational purposes (from my article on 31May2015 on SAN ANDREAS):

How do you compare the relative energies of two earthquakes?  Many references make the mistake of citing amplitudes.  But amplitudes are not the story.  If you want to compare the impact of a 9.6 magnitude with a 7.8 magnitude, you need to get to the strength, or energy content, of the quakes.  Empirically, the relationship between magnitude and energy is logarithmic, so you need to do the following:

     Subtract 7.8 from 9.6        = 1.8
     Multiply by 1.5                 = 2.7
     Take 10 to the 2.7 power  = 501

Thus, the 9.6 magnitude earthquake of the film is 501 times stronger than the 7.8 magnitude of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

To summarize:
  • Subtract the smaller earthquake from the larger.
  • Multiply this difference by 1.5.
  • Place this number into the exponent of base 10.

Note that this 2010 Chile earthquake is called by various different names.  It was the 7th largest in recorded history.

The largest earthquake experienced by Planet Earth, ever?  No records, of course, but I found it interesting that there were no pre-historic earthquakes even close to the Valdivia 9.5.  For example, in 1201 or 1202, an earthquake in Egypt/Syria killed 1.1 million (mostly from famine/disease), but only was estimated to be of 7.6 moment magnitude.  That total is greater than the 825,000 deaths of the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake, which is listed as the most devastating.

While natural disasters in Japan have been the most costly, China is where the most deaths occur from natural disasters:

  • Flood (China, July 1931):  one to four million (China has the worse four floods)
  • Famine (China1958 to 1961):  15 to 43 million (I was in high school and don't remember this)
  • Astronomical fall (1490 Ching-yang event):  10,000 (meteor shower)
  • Avalanche (Peru, 1970):  20,000 (following an earthquake)
  • Heat wave (Europe, 2003):  70,000 (I was in Europe that summer, and it was, indeed, hot--for farmers in Ireland were told to apply sun tan lotion to cow udders--but was not aware so many people died)
  • Cyclone (Pakistan, 1970):  more than half a million
  • Tsunami (Greece, 365AD, from Crete earthquake):  400,000 (the 26December2004 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami is #2 with 280,000 deaths)
  • Volcanic eruption (Indonesia, 1815):  more than 71,000
Well, anyway, natural disasters draw the most visitors to Planet Earth and Humanity, so, even though this blog site unbecomes a daily at the end of this month, I will continue to report on natural disasters affecting Hawaii.


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