There have been a number of dire predictions making the rounds on the Internet over the past few days. First there was an excellent article in the New Yorker entitled The Really Big One that talks about a major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone. Then there were predictions from the National Weather Service that what might be the worst El Niño effect in twenty years is forming in the Pacific and we may be in for a winter of destructive floods. Added to this mix was the prediction that we would experience a “mini ice age” in 2030. And now today comes the prediction that we are due for a massive earthquake on the Hayward fault “any day now.”
If you’re not feeling apprehensive, you’re not paying attention. We’re all going to die!
Well, while it’s certainly true we’re all going to die, these predictions are being blown out of proportion to make it appear that the end of the world is just around the corner. Here are the facts:
- The Cascade subduction zone scenario is indeed real and a truly frightening one. That’s why government agencies at all levels have been planning for it for at least the past twenty years. There’s still a lot to do and it will probably be inadequate but this is not a new threat.
- It does appear that this will be a strong El Niño year and there will be floods. The last strong El Niño period saw almost every county in California declared a disaster area. But we know it’s coming and we have considerable experiencing in California with flood fighting. It’s not going to be fun but we’ll get through it.
- The mini ice age? This is sparked by something called the “Maunder Minimum”, a period of reduced solar activity in the 17th Century that coincided with the Little Ice Age. However, the Little Ice Age began before and ended after the Maunder Minimum and the expected drop in temperature will be negligible given our present level of global warning, something on the order of 0.1 degree Celsius.
- According to the US Geological Survey, the recent 4.0 earthquake on the Hayward Fault was a standalone event and not a precursor to a larger temblor. However, there is a 31% chance of a major earthquake on the fault within the next 30 years. This is not a new threat: my colleagues and I have been telling you this for years. And, geologically speaking, it is due “any minute now.”
Bottom line, most of these threats are real and could occur at any moment but that is the nature of disasters. There is no reason to be more frightened of them today than you were yesterday. What you can do is prepare and not just for these large events but for disaster in general. You know the drill: make plan, build a kit, and get the facts.
Maybe today you’ll actually listen and do something about it.