The following is an article pitch I made to “Cracked”; they considered it as a “Quick Fix” but today I learned that they had rejected it because they had already done a “doomed city” feature article. I am therefore offering the pitch to anyone who is interested. I had a 2000-word article in mind, but a Quick Fix would have been less; the final word count and style will depend on the type of publication it will appear in. A straight factual article isn’t possible because that’s already done in the linked article about the Weston Observatory seismologist, but a humorous approach would work. Contact me at bjdeming dot gmail dot com if interested in purchasing rights (all are reserved for now). Comments below on the pitch and ways to improve it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for your interest.
San Francisco is the US city is most likely to be destroyed in an earthquake, right? Nope – it’s really Boston, according to the Earthquake Disaster Risk Index (PDF).
Boston sits in a moderately active seismic zone as this USGS poster shows (note: it’s a huge file). A seismologist at Boston College’s Weston Observatory believes that all of the earthquakes in the Northeast, including a large one near Boston in 1755 and a magnitude 7 earthquake in what’s now New Hampshire in 1638, might be aftershocks of an even bigger quake that we have no record of . . . and another Big One could therefore be in store for the area.
This does not bode well for Boston.
Unlike Manhattan, where the skyscrapers are anchored to rock, much of downtown Boston was built on fill and marshland that liquefies when shaken strongly. The glacial deposits the rest of the metro area sits on aren’t much better: loose soil like that can actually amplify seismic waves.
Unlike “edgy” San Francisco, Boston sits on a relatively thick and cool interior part of the North American tectonic plate that’s ideal for transmitting undampened seismic waves over long distances. This is why Boston church bells rang when four big M7-plus earthquakes hit New Madrid, Missouri, 1000 miles away, in 1811-1812.
What we’re saying is that the next Big One doesn’t have to happen in Boston in order to destroy it – the waves will be just as strong if they come from New Hampshire or some other place nearby.
Forewarned is forearmed. Simply recognizing that this can happen in Boston helps a lot. The city has had seismic building codes since 1973 and is trying to get retrofitting going. As well, ongoing research may soon produce a way to prevent or reduce the liquefaction problem.
Dear God, What Can I Do?
Boston is doomed. Run as far away as you can. Head south – wait, no. There’s New York City. Further south, then, down to Y’All Country – nope. There’s tornadoes and hurricanes and snakes and the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Head for the Midwest – oh, wait. There’s tornadoes and blizzards and drought and floods and children of the corn. The West Coast – no way: Seattle and Los Angeles have their own individualized Big One upcoming in the future.
OK, stay in Boston then. You’re ahead of the game just knowing that a huge earthquake can happen here.
And they’re working on this now.
According to the Weston Observatory seismologist, earthquake-resistant building codes were introduced in 1973. Roads, bridges and tunnels have been built to code, hopefully. Water, gas and sewer mains are still vulnerable. The big skyscrapers have been designed to handle quake motions. Unfortunately, older homes and low-rise brick structures, as well as many historic buildings, are still at risk. Retrofitting is happening, though so slowly that only half the city’s buildings will be resistant by 2036.
What about liquefaction? What good are earthquake-resistant buildings if they’re sitting on quicksand? Well, this may be the best news of all. Researchers from Idaho, Texas, New York and Massachusetts this summer started testing a new injection technique that may prevent or at least reduce liquefaction.