MISA THEORY - Last Updated Dec 31 2010
I see a different problem than the ones most people are talking about these days - possibly catastrophic. I came up with a theory a few years ago based on the principle of reservoir-induced seismicity. Because all theories should be predictive, I made this prediction: the world would see an increasing number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. As predictions go, that looks dead-on - according to usgs.gov, the number of earthquakes in the U.S. has increased by roughly 90% over 2009 and about 120% over 2008. In other words, the rate of increase is itself increasing, the curve looking rather hyperbolic if you chart the data in Excel, which I have done for you, above.
Going back to 1990 there were NO years where we had 4000+ quakes in the States...until 2009, when we had 4264. I thought about posting this last year, but since the new 'top' in 2009 wasn't THAT much higher than the previous one, I decided to wait for better confirmation, so as not to be alarmist. I was still hoping I was wrong at that point. This year we are rapidly closing in on 8000 quakes, though I doubt we will get there before Jan 1. That is truly a frightening spike. I predicted it, I was expecting an increase, but...wow, not like that. It's unquestionably time to be alarmed now.
Basically, I proposed a simple concept: that a gram of water in a dam's reservoir weighs the same as a gram of water off the coast of Japan (or California, or Indonesia, whatever), and if weight in a dam's reservoir can cause earthquakes (and clearly they can and sometimes do), then introducing extra mass to new areas globally would increase seismic instability globally.
Where is all the extra mass coming from? Well, most of it, obviously, from melted ice, quadrillions of tons. The entire planet looks different from orbit now compared to what it once looked like. Now, I'm not saying some extra water mass can make a completely geologically inactive area do anything. But a LOT of volcanoes and tectonics just need a little extra pressure to blow. Also, most of the ice is melting away from thick continental plates and is ending up in the oceans, where the plates are much thinner and therefore more sensitive.
The oceans are the planet's reservoir. The vast amounts of ice that are melting off the land are filling up that reservoir. Essentially, MISA Theory is very similar to the concept behind Reservoir-Induced Seismicity, but on a global scale and with three differences: 1) nobody did a geological survey of the reservoir area to make sure that the added mass wouldn't cause problems, as is always done with dams; 2) the plates under the oceans are far more fragile than those beneath any land-based reservoir; and 3) this reservoir cannot be drained to relieve pressure.
POSTULATE ONE: The global mass redistribution that is occurring is the proximate (direct) cause of the increase in seismic activity being experienced across the world.
If you extrapolate the numbers and just go with the last year's rate of increase in quakes in the U.S., then by 2020 we'd be experiencing more than 1 million quakes per year instead of the more normal 3500-ish. Not a huge number of giant quakes, mostly greatly increased numbers of small-to-medium quakes. But globally big quakes are also up, about 25%. If that rate also kept increasing then we'd go from around 12-15 big quakes per year globally now to more like 150 or so per year by 2020.
Clearly, we must hope and pray that that curve levels off very soon. Unfortunately there is no reason to expect that it will. It will probably get worse. But who can know? I do know this: bell curves rule the universe and that looks like the beginning of a bell curve to me, one with a terrifyingly steep upslope. Danger, Will Robinson!
Volcanic activity is way up this year too, presumably for the same reason: they're being squeezed around the edges by newly introduced - and relentlessly increasing - water mass and the ones closest to eruption are popping like giant magma-spewing zits. As more mass flows to the oceans, I expect this to get increasingly worse. Or better, if you like volcanic eruptions.
Here's a factoid: each square mile of water that is one meter deep weighs 5,709,917,475 pounds. Not quite 6 billion pounds. Now you're thinking, well, we don't have one meter of sea level rise yet. That's true. But realize, sea level rise is not the same from area to area. Some areas have higher amounts than the average, some lower. It's possible that we're creeping up on that amount in some areas already. In any case, the process is ongoing, the mass flowing in continuously, month after month, year after year.
Think about your average volcano sticking out of the ocean. It may have 100 square miles (10x10 miles) where added mass could have some effect. So if the sea level around that volcano is increased by one meter then the amount of newly-introduced weight affecting that volcano is 570 billion pounds. If it was 99% of the way to blowing its top already then that might just be plenty to push it over the edge. The same is true of faults, except their area is often much larger.
POSTULATE TWO: All faults and volcanoes have tipping points. The more mass that is added to the oceans, the more of those tipping points we will reach, and the more seismic activity we will experience, particularly in the oceans and near coastal areas. This is happening now.
That's all there is to it. Two short and sweet postulates. My fear is that my theory is, in fact, correct. That was certainly an accurate prediction. Worse, I fear the possibility that the escalation continues. Just a few years of escalation like this past year's and that alone could cause some serious problems with maintaining the civilization we have. If things start getting knocked down faster than we can repair them, then we're screwed.
Avoidance of the problem is out - it's happening now. Effective mitigation will be extraordinarily difficult. Yet we must try everything. Other than that, we will have only adaptation and suffering.
All theories need a name. So until someone comes up with a better one, how about: Mass-Induced Seismic Amplification, or MISA Theory. (I tried to make OHSHIT work. The OHSHIT Theory. Couldn't make it work. Bummer. But hey, let's call that the alternate name. It's just not an acronym.)
MISA Theory: Unless we act immediately, our planet will experience an increasingly violent series of oceanic and coastal earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused by the transfer of unthinkable amounts of mass from land to sea.
And where is the news media? A 100% (almost) year-over-year increase in U.S. earthquakes isn't news? Then what is? Which douchebag celebrity is guest-starring on Glee next month? W.T.F. (And I don't mean World Trade Federation.) Reporters, wake up! This is a scoop! Go make some money! Do. Your. Job. (I will remove this paragraph once I see even ONE news story, anywhere, that at the very least lets people know that the number of U.S. quakes each year is rapidly increasing.)
Feel free to prove MISA wrong. MISA wants to be wrong, Ani! (Please don't sue me, Mr. Lucas.) With data and facts though, not rants and ideology. Find some holes in the logic. Shoot the theory down if you can. Don't be shy. I want to be wrong. I'm scared I'm right. The next year or five are going to be highly interesting, and I mean that in the Chinese curse way.
This is an existential threat and will require immediate worldwide mobilization and unprecedented cooperation to offer any hope for humanity. All is not lost. But there is no time to spare. Act now. Who among us will not be willing to do whatever it takes - bear whatever burden, endure whatever hardship, make whatever sacrifice - in order to preserve our species and civilization? I have no children but I will do whatever is asked to ensure your children have a future. This is the common purpose and love for one another that we must summon now. Put aside anger, recriminations and fear. Gather our finest minds. With strong leadership and a shared imperative we can and will overcome this dragon.
Crazy-sounding ideas may have to be considered. For example, we obviously cannot remove the water from the oceans, refreeze it and put it back. It'd just melt again anyway. But we could deploy, say, a million big dredging machines, each capable of dredging a million tons per day. Or five million. Try to get to the point where sea level is decreasing by removing more mass than is being added. Then take that matter and deposit it somewhere on a thick continental plate. Build some mountains somewhere. Retool factories. We've done it before to kill each other; we can do it now to save each other. Aerosols might buy us some time. We must stop injecting CO2 into the atmosphere quickly. There are many things we can try, and we will probably need all of them. I'm no scientist or seismologist or any kind of -ologist (not even a proctologist). I'm sure scientists and smart people will have other ideas. But...this is urgent. We must get started now.
If we don't act now, then...well, don't make me say it. I won't say it. I can't. I will say only that a multi-year volcanic winter would cause some serious problems. We need to mobilize just as we did for WWII, and then some. We must be as willing to sacrifice as our greatest generation was, and then some. We owe it to the children of today and all following generations to do anything and everything we can to prevent the unspeakable. Please, let us do the right thing.
I wish everyone well. Peace.
Here are some links:
USGS U.S. earthquake data (pay attention to total quakes for each year):
Some final notes:
Please feel free to repost: images, content, anything, everything.
Do you know someone who lives near a coast? Might wanna send them here so they can evaluate the information for themselves. Maybe they'd like to lower their earthquake deductible; the default is generally ridiculously high. Ours was $40k. We didn't even know until we looked. Now it's $20k. Locked in our rates before the insurance companies catch on to what's happening. Better safe than sorry.
Shipping vessels are disappearing now. Did you know that? Maybe it's not always Somalian Jack Sparrow wannabes. 'Rogue waves'. Ask yourself: when did you first hear that term? Seismic death may be lurking all throughout the oceans now, waiting to pounce at any time. A fault slips, a wave rises, a ship disappears.
Why did USGS stop counting small quakes (4.5 or less) globally two years ago? Were the numbers too alarming? That decision - to withhold that information going forward - was made in the waning days of the Bush administration, just before Obama took office. We're still not getting that information though. Why? Show us your cards, USGS. We already know it isn't good.
Please send this text to your Congressperson, TV station, newspaper, somebody. I'd really appreciate that. A lot.
Some people say that everyone is put here for a purpose. I don't pretend to know if that is true or not. But if it is, then perhaps my purpose is to deliver this unfortunate news to my species. This has been - and still is - a heavy burden.
Don't shoot the messenger!