The Shifting Sands Of Our Crustal Earth

On a bright February afternoon in 2001 the technical services team here at Promega received word that a major earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale had struck the American Pacific Northwest, and that telecommunications with our customers in that region would be significantly disrupted. The major shock had occurred at precisely the moment that one of our own had been on the phone with a researcher in Seattle.  That call was prematurely cut short as electrical power outages and extensive building damage rocked through the Seattle-Tacoma metro area. Fortunately the epicenter of this particular 45-second quake was 52 km below the ground (1). 400 injuries, four of them serious, was the extent of the medical burden suffered. As earthquakes go this was a weak one, although strong enough to rekindle our awareness that the earth beneath our feet is often times worryingly unpredictable (1). This month’s mega-quake in Japan was a painful reminder of the apocalyptic potential of our planet’s extensive seismicity.    Continue reading