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Kern Kounty Katastrophe

I’ve blogged before about dam break disasters.  If you have interest in ‘natural’ hazards like I do, dam break floods always draw because:

(1) There are so many potential candidates out there.  Something like 80,000 dams exist in the USA.  Go worldwide and the number multiplies to 850,000. Untold millions of people live and work under the influence of one of those things. Often the culprits are far from mind, lurking out of sight in distant hills.

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Slid Sliding Away

I’m not from the “Show Me” state, but like those folks, I tend to believe it when I see it. Earth scientists like myself have some advantage in seeing because we “dig in the dirt”. From what we find there we can envision geological happenings over scales of space and time that others can’t fathom. 

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Nightmare at Naples

Have you ever watched one of those television shows about Pompeii? Pompeii and its neighbor Herculaneum were Roman-era towns at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius, an active volcano adjacent to the now Italian city of Naples. In 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted and quickly buried the two places. The old towns lie forgotten for nearly two millennia. It wasn’t until the 18-century that a farmer digging a water well discovered, at the bottom of the hole, a Herculaneum house with finely tiled walls. Not long after, diggers encountered

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Flash Flood

You have to admit that there is something special about the term ‘Flash Flood’.  Think about it. There are no ‘flash hurricanes’, no  ‘flash tornadoes’, nary one ‘flash earthquake’ that I’ve heard of.  It seems that only floods flash.

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Lahar.  Sounds like a word that you’d find in the Klingon dictionary. I’ve lost my copy, but I do have handy the “Encyclopedia of Geological Terms”. 

Lahar:  A dense, fast flowing mixture of water, mud, ash, rock and debris.  Lahars typically form on the steep slopes of volcanoes that experience a sudden influx of water from rapid glacier melt or heavy rain.

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Positively Glacial

“Positively Glacial.”  Does that expression ever come to your mind?  Standing in bank teller lines, it comes to mine.  Waiting for my teenage son to take out the trash, it comes to mine.

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How can you live in.....?

Sometimes when visiting out-of-state relatives on holiday I’m asked…

“How can you live in California with all those earthquakes?” 

Usually I smile and joke about getting ocean front property in Arizona.

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Tale of Two Flows

Not so long ago, I attended a meeting in Maui.  At the reception the barista served a cold rum concoction called “Lava Flow”.  Truth to say I sampled several, however I’m here now to tale about that second kind of lava flow, the hot one.

Pu’u ‘O’o crater lies in the Southeast rift zone of Kilauea Volcano on the Hawaii’s Big Island. Perhaps you have heard of it?  Pu’u ‘O’o has been actively spilling lava since 1983 and has recently been in the news again.

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The place --- Here. The time ---Now.

Last round I blogged about Natural Hazards and the Demise of Civilization. The civilization was the Minoans of 1628 BC. Like the goings-on in the original Star Wars trilogy, that demise happened a long, long time ago in a place far, far away. So long and so far really, that both seem more fairy tale than fact. 

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Natural Hazards and the Demise of Civilization.

Most of us experience nature’s hazards in fairly benign ways. Perhaps our electricity goes out for a few days in an early snowstorm or we’re forced to detour for a while from our usual road because a bit of it sloughed into a creek during a heavy rain. Sure, on occasion, natural disasters are more serious. Fires and landslides do sweep through neighborhoods. Whole towns do vanish in tornados and hurricanes. Still, most of us witness large-scale disasters only on late night TV or by Google at


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