San Francisco Building Demolition Fuels Quake Study

Image: San Francisco Building Demolition Fuels Quake Study Geophysicist Rufus Catchings holds a seismograph.

Saturday, 17 Aug 2013 08:54 PM

 

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
    A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
It took just seconds for a 13-story building overlooking San Francisco Bay to implode, spewing smoke and chunks of concrete as it crumbled into a heap of rubble. But U.S. Geological Survey scientist Rufus Catchings was marveling less at the visual spectacle than what he could feel with his feet.

As the building collapsed, the vibrations Catchings noted told him that a novel experiment to study one of the most dangerous fault lines in the country likely was a success.

"I was trying to sense the seismic energy on the ground," Catchings said.

On Saturday, workers imploded Warren Hall, for four decades a fixture of the East Bay hillsides and the Cal State East Bay campus.

The boxy building was built roughly 2,000 feet from the Hayward fault, and officials recently deemed it seismically unsafe. Scientists turned its destruction into a valuable tool in their ongoing efforts to understand the earthquakes that have shaped California.

At precisely 9 a.m. a series of explosives went off with deafening bangs, as the building shook and then slumped. Then Warren Hall crumbled into a 12,500-ton pile of concrete and steel.

Scores of onlookers cheered.

The impact sent shockwaves that researchers hoped would mimic a magnitude-2.0 earthquake. Scientists had placed more than 600 miniature seismographs in concentric circles within a mile of the building to collect data they will use in their studies.

"This will tell us a lot about the fault zone itself, of the amplitude of seismic energy we expect from a real earthquake," Catchings said.

The USGS estimates there is a 63 percent chance of a major earthquake in the Bay Area within the next three decades.

The Hayward fault, which runs through several East Bay cities and under the football stadium at the University of California, Berkeley, is the most likely of the handful of Bay Area fault lines to move.

USGS scientists hope that Saturday's seismic-like shaking will help them map where the ground might move the most when the big one hits.

It's not just the main fault line that concerns scientists and nearby residents. Additional lines - called traces - split off from the main fault, and the location of many are unknown. The vibrations set off by Warren Hall's implosion will help scientists figure out where they are.

"In the event of a large earthquake, often times it's not just one break in the ground, it's spread out over some distance," Catchings said. "You'd kind of like to know where all these things are if you really want to understand the hazard."

Analyzing the data likely will take months.

Many people vividly remember the magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 that killed 63 people, injured almost 3,800 and caused up to $10 billion in damage, including a collapsed freeway that killed dozens of drivers. That quake was centered near Santa Cruz, about 50 miles south of Hayward.

But the last major earthquake on the Hayward fault was in 1868, Catchings said. He said the fault triggers a major earthquake every 140 years on average.

Mark Salinas, Hayward's mayor pro tem, said knowing where the ground shakes will help the city decide where to put new housing and other buildings. "This data, when it's available, will inform us on future development," he said.

The idea to use the building's demolition came from Luther Strayer, an associate professor of geology at the university who called USGS officials to see if they would be interested.

After the implosion, Strayer said he was more than optimistic about the possible results.

"We really couldn't ask for better," he said.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  Comment  |
   Contact  |
  Print   |
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

German Researchers: Cellphone Calls, Messages Easy to Crack

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 14:12 PM

Security flaws on the global network that routes the world's cellphone calls and texts could allow hackers and criminals . . .

Kepler's Exoplanet Find Is First Since Space Telescope Revived

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 09:54 AM

The Kepler space telescope has discovered its first exoplanet since NASA's engineers were able to reboot the mission man . . .

Rosetta Comet-Landing Is 2014's Top Science Breakthrough

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 08:37 AM

The top scientific breakthrough of 2014 was the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft's rendezvous with a comet, th . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved