December 27, 2004

out with a bang

the year seems to be ending with an awful bang. as you probably already know, my neck of the woods (south/south east asia) got sucker punched the day after Christmas. a series of tsunamis generated by a 9.0 undersea earthquake (revised from an initial 8.9) devastated coastal areas all around the andaman sea and indian ocean. one of Thailand's main tourist destinations, Phuket Island and the surrounding area, got hammered. sadly it looks like the regional death toll will be more than 10,000 people.

frankly we have no experience with this sort of thing--TV news and talk shows were actually reporting the Sumatra quake when it occurred but nobody, officially or otherwise, made the connection to the subsequent tsunamis. when the initial event caused the sea to recede, people actually went out to investigate--Hawaiians or Japanese would probably have started running for high ground.

and if you too think tsunamis are confined to the Pacific area, think again. historically there are very few coastal areas (that's an arcIMS application BTW) that have not experienced a tsunami event. the east coast of the US, Ireland, even Britain have been hit in the past. there are two good data resources for this:
a couple of months ago i built a quake RSS CFC to replace an aging "finger" parser for USGS quake data. as you can see, there are still a significant number of aftershocks still going on. and if my structural geology knowledge has not completely turned to chaos, a 7+ earthquake in the right spot (deep water, thick sedments) might generate another tsunami. i hope not.


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