On around Tuesday 1:00 am, January 23, 2018, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Chiniak, Alaska. When tectonic plates collide with enough force or a pressure build-up causes a sudden release of pressure, it can cause a violent movement and vibrations.
What are Tsunamis?
Earthquakes can generate waves, huge ones that are known as Tsunamis. Tsunamis are caused by the water displacement that can result from the shifting of tectonic plates. When the wave nears the coast, the water becomes more and more shallow. Since a wave isn’t just a flap of moving water, but an extended “column” of moving water molecules when the wave nears the shore, the energy is condensed, and a wave is formed. This is because the wave no longer has to travel through the entire depth of ocean water, but rather only the depth of the coast. The water will get pushed upwards to create what we traditionally call a wave. The energy to push the water molecules upwards is taken from the total speed of the wave. If the wave is not fast enough, the “top” of the wave will collapse, and the wave will “break”. How high a wave reaches when it nears the shoreline depends a lot on how fast it is moving.
What role do earthquakes play?
The sudden jolt an earthquake makes can create extremely fast waves, some of which can be moving faster than a commercial jet. When the wave reaches the shoreline, it can become a towering wall of water. And since the tsunami wave will displace water, when the tide retreats and the tsunami are over, it will draw in anything or anyone that is not in a safe area.
Even though the shockwave was from the Alaskan coast, it could still cause tsunami waves that are meters high when it hits the coast. And since the tsunami travels so fast, the distance will hardly slow it down.
Supposed danger zone
So what happened?
So why did we not hear breaking news about a tsunami that devastated coastal settlements? It turns out that the Earthquake was not the type that could have caused tsunami waves. Even though the earthquake had a high amount of energy, the tectonic plates did not slide vertically, but they moved more horizontally, not creating much of a shockwave. We were lucky this time.
The megathrust earthquake on the left would have caused a lot of water displacement, and thus a tsunami
Recently there have been many talks in the news about NAFTA. We have been so tied up with our IDS and Science Fair projects and might have lost contact with the “real-world”. So I decided to dig out more about NAFTA. What is it? Why is it important to Canada? What is happening now? What is next?
What is it?
NAFTA stands for North American Free Trade Agreement. There are three members in this agreement: Canada, United States and Mexico. It was established 24 years ago in 1994. The economic size of NAFTA is significant. It was estimated NAFTA GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was about 21 Trillion USD in 2016 (about 20% of the world’s GDP). This agreement allows free trade among the three member countries by eliminating the trading barriers.
Why is it important to Canada?
Canadian economy heavily relies on trading. It does not matter we like Trump or not, the most important trading partner of Canada is our southern neighbour, the U.S. Maintaining a free-trading environment in North America will benefit Canadian consumers and suppliers in many aspects. As consumers, we could get access to cheaper products as these products could be imported to Canada without additional customs fees. Also, it means we could get a wider variety of goods produced in the U.S. and Mexico. For Canadian producers, we could get access to the larger market outside of Canada with low exporting fees. With the free trading agreement, it could also attract investment from the U.S. For general Canadians, NAFTA means more job opportunities in the U.S. and Mexico and allows people invest freely in the U.S. and Mexico.
What is happening now?
Trump administration had initiated a renegotiation of NAFTA shortly after the election in July 2017. The goal of U.S. in this negotiation is to reduce the U.S.’s trade deficit, i.e. increase the amount of U.S.’s export value and reduce its imports. Since then, there have been many intense negotiations andat times the U.S. threatening to walk away from NAFTA.
Last week there has been a week-long negotiation at Montreal. The most crucial resource for B.C. is probably the softwood lumber import duty. As for me, dairy products are the most important. The U.S. proposes to end the limits of Canadian imports on dairy products (milk, cheese and poultry).
What is next?
According to the experts, the U.S. is unlikely to walk away from the NAFTA entirely, although there could be potentially significant changes.
Also, Tuesday last week (Jan. 23), Canada, together with other members of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), agreed to move forward with revising TPP agreement without the U.S. TPP is a trading agreement with 13 Pacific countries. TPP helps opening new markets, although geographically far from home. TPP allows Canada rely less on NAFTA. Maybe I will write something about TPP the next time something comes up.
Once in a Blue Moon
Tomorrow morning (January 31), we will have a “once in a blue moon” opportunity to see three moon phenomenon happen at the same time: a Supermoon, a Blue moon, and a Blood moon. Last time this happened was in 1866, 152 years ago. So this is a truly once in a lifetime event.
What is a supermoon?
It is a full moon at a point in its orbit where it is closest to Earth. This point is called perigee. When this happens, the moon could appear up to 14% larger and 30% brighter compared to the usual moon. People call this larger and brighter moon a Super Moon. On a contrast, do you know there is a term called “micromoon”? This is when a full moon at a point where it is furthest to Earth. This point is called apogee.
What is a Blue moon?
There are an old and a new definition. The older definition of a Blue Moon is the third full moon in a season which has four full moons. Now the commonly acceptable new definition is the second full moon in a calendar month. So a Blue moon has nothing to do with its color, and it would look the same as usual.
What is a Blood moon?
A moon during a total lunar eclipse would look red and is called a Blood moon. During an eclipse, Earth blocks the sunlight to the moon. Theoretically, the moon will be invisible. However, the Earth’s atmosphere filters the sunlight’s green to violet portion and passes through the reddish light. The reddish light is bent twice (when enters and leaves the atmosphere) and illuminates the moon. This is why the moon looks red.
Photo of the Dec. 20, 2010 total lunar eclipse from Cochranville, Pa. taken by Kevin R. Witman, using a Meade LX50 10″ Schmidt Cassegrain telescope and a Canon XS DSLR camera. Credit: Kevin R. Witman
I’ve already had my telescope set up to watch this event assuming I could wake up around 5 am. But with the unpredictable weather we have, the moon might not be visible at all. So our best bet might be watch livestream at NASA Television https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public.