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Zipingpu Dam May Have Triggered the Sichuan Quake

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the may-get-us-banned-in-china dept.

Earth 193

bfwebster writes "An article in the Telegraph (UK) raises an interesting question: was the massive (7.9) Sichuan earthquake that wracked China last year and left millions homeless caused by ground stresses following the completion of the Zipingpu dam? As the article notes, 'The 511-ft-high Zipingpu dam holds 315 million tonnes of water and lies just 550 yards from the fault line, and three miles from the epicenter, of the Sichuan earthquake. Now scientists in China and the United States believe the weight of water, and the effect of it penetrating into the rock, could have affected the pressure on the fault line underneath, possibly unleashing a chain of ruptures that led to the quake.'" The Sichuan region is earthquake-prone, but has not seen anything as large as the 7.9-magnitude quake for perhaps millions of years. The Chinese government denies any connection between the dam and the earthquake and seems to be actively obstructing the access of scientists who want to investigate. The article concludes, "There is a history of earthquakes triggered by dams, including several caused by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the US, but none of such a magnitude."

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193 comments

In Communist China... (1, Funny)

Jizzbug (101250) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718489)

...earthquakes KILL you!

I am sick of it... (5, Funny)

Kjuib (584451) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718501)

Those dam quakes always screwing everything up!

Re:I am sick of it... (2, Funny)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718623)

dam you! that's what I was going to say!

Re:I am sick of it... (1)

the_denman (800425) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719599)

dam it can't we all just get along?

Re:I am sick of it... (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719761)

NO U in communist china, the dam rules YOU!!

Re:I am sick of it... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719783)

Frankly my dear, I don't give a dam.

Re:I am sick of it... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719535)

Yeah, fucking Jews!

Oh, wait, you said "quakes"... my bad.

Fucking Amish!

It would have likely occurred anyway (5, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718537)

The dam might have just brought the event forward a year or two. Fault lines are natural stress relief areas anyway.

As with all things geological, there are a lot of unknown variables, hence the "could", "might" and other diluting terms.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (4, Interesting)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718625)

I suspect that when as much energy as was released in that particular quake gets released, it was gonna get out one way or another. But building the dam where they did couldn't have helped.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (4, Insightful)

fugue (4373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719485)

It could indeed have helped. There was a proposal a few years ago to inject water into faults, the idea being that this would lubricate the faults and trigger quakes sooner. That, of course, means more smaller quakes, rather than fewer really big ones.

Probably never came to anything due to liability concerns. Letting nature kill a few thousand is better than a human doing something that kills one who has a good lawyer. Woot. Unless it's burning fossil fuels, I suppose... never mind...

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (0, Flamebait)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720557)

Letting nature kill a few thousand is better than a human doing something that kills one who has a good lawyer.

Dead men don't sue. The family of the deceased might, but the best you'll get is a wrongful death.

A worse case scenario is that during one of these quakes someone spills hot coffee into their lap. I wouldn't want to be on the other end of _that_ lawsuit!

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (3, Insightful)

inKubus (199753) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720739)

Interesting you should mention fossil fuels as there's a strong correlation between earthquakes and oil extraction (and other mining activities)..

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (4, Funny)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718697)

Yeah, I have a hard time believing a couple million pounds of water has much impact on the geologic energies stored up along the fault.

I'll bet what actually happened is that all the Chinese jumped at the same time.... that would definitely do it.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (5, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718937)

Given the current value of the pound, a few million would barely buy you enough to have an impact on a hydrophobe.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (4, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718877)

The dam might have just brought the event forward a year or two.

Or made it much more intense. Maybe without the dam and lake instead of one large earthquake it would have been a series of smaller earthquakes.

Adding a large weight almost on top of a fault is definitely going to influence it, flexing the Earth and altering the stresses in the fault.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (4, Insightful)

adolf (21054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720299)

+5?

Geez. For that matter, as long as we're speculating, it could have made the quake much less intense.

Remember, kids: Just because you've changed something, doesn't mean that you've always made something else worse.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26720479)

LOL, except common sense basic physics has taught all of us that if you put a shit ton of pressure on something, it's likely to break.

This concept is far more plausable than you trying to refute it the other way. I don't have to put a fucking 20 ton bolder on top of my car to speculate it'll crush it, while you'd simply claim it *COULD* make the car expand instead! Because no one actually studied it! RTFS, it's already been stated this phenomenon has been recorded and researched in other areas making the speculation a pretty good hypothesis.

True? No one ones, but there's certainly no support that it dampened the impact.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (3, Interesting)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718939)

true, yes the damn may have caused the earthquake, but the proper way to look at it is the earthquake brought the geology back to a neutral point. so technically they should be in a good place.

plus the fact the damn did not fail, says it was built properly.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (5, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719577)

but the proper way to look at it is the earthquake brought the geology back to a neutral point

Why on earth would you say that? Earthquakes don't bring geology to neutral points. They happen when the earth gets past critical point.

I can't think of a totally slashdot car analogy, but here is a good analogy of earthquake causes and how it works geologically that at least includes a car.

Think of a piece of bungee cord 10 meters in length. You tie one part to the tow-ball of a car, and hold the middle of the cord. This means there is five meters of slack cord past the point where you are holding. Now, the car very very slowly starts to drive away from you, and the tension in the cord slowly grows. You holding onto the cord with all your might represents the pressures on the fault line. Sooner or later however, the pull on the cord will be too much, and it will slip in your hand. Now, you don't totally let go however. It might slip an inch or two, just barely enough so that the force of your hand holding it once again overcomes the force of the pull in the cord - but there is still a lot of tension in the cord. When the car moves away far enough again, there will be another slip of a small distance again and again.

This is how fault lines work. When there is a quake, it doesn't go back to a neutral point. It goes back to a point which is lower than the critical point that caused the earthquake.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720125)

I'm not sure the GP post merited your correction, which ended up saying (this is a paraphrase): "It doesn't return to a neutral point, just closer to a neutral point."

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (1)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720131)

we're essentially saying the same thing ie earthquakes release tension in the system. In this case the damn may have been a catalyst. In one sense it may have allowed the tension to be released as opposed to continuing to build up and have a catastrophic earthquake 100 years from now.

If I understand correctly you are better of with many small earthquakes, as opposed to one huge one.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719023)

"The dam might have just brought the event forward a year or two."

Or decades, or centuries. It's hard to be sure yet. As the article mentions, there is ample precedent [internationalrivers.org] for earthquakes being triggered by the weight of the water behind dams and increase in pore fluid pressure, both in seismically active and relatively inactive areas. If you want to find papers, look for the term "reservoir-induced seismicity". In the high activity case, yeah, maybe it didn't make much difference, because the area could have frequent earthquakes anyway, but in the latter case (less active area) it can make a big difference versus the natural earthquake pattern. Having major earthquakes where they didn't happen before (in human memory) is pretty inconvenient.

Because the earthquake did happen in a fairly seismically active part of China, people should be cautious about interpreting too much into its location near a dam. For an earthquake that big the stress must have built up over a long period of time -- far longer than the dam has been around. It couldn't have been the sole cause. It is still a legitimate question that deserves further study.

This paper [sc.edu] [PDF] gives a good description of the physics and evidence behind the process with an example from the Montecello reservoir [sc.edu] [PDF] in South Carolina.

This paper [springerlink.com] , which unfortunately requires a subscription to read, talks specifically about reservoir-induced seismicity in China [springerlink.com] , especially in regards to the Three Gorges Dam project. It dates from 1998.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (1)

Squeeonline (1323439) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719431)

It could also have made the delayed event not so bad as it released some of the pressure early. If it had built up as it was supposed to, the destruction would have been much worse and with it, the death toll.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (1)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719477)

This IMHO is very true, but the severity of the quake was possibly much higher due to a sudden and full release of fault line tension instead of several lesser releases over time.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26720437)

You would need a lot more than "several" lesser releases. The Richter scale is logarithmic.
It would take approximately 1,000,000 magnitude 4 quakes (or 31,250 magnitude 5 quakes) to equal the energy released by a magnitude 7.9 quake.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720469)

Possibly, but as has been said it's equally possible that it made the inevitable quick weaker by causing a full release now instead of a full release 10 years from now.

Tectonics are complicated, the correct answer is we don't know and probably never will know if the dam made things better or worse.

Re:It would have likely occurred anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719803)

The dam might have just brought the event forward a year or two or a million. And it may have increased the magnitude.

Tragic, maybe? (1, Redundant)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718565)

Well, it's either have the earthquake now or have it later. Take your pick.

Re:Tragic, maybe? (4, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718571)

Or maybe it could have been, "Have it smaller." I wonder if we'll ever know.

Re:Tragic, maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719143)

I wonder if we'll ever know.

Probably not, with the Chinese government being so sensitive about it.

Re:Tragic, maybe? (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720195)

For the past 30 years, geologists have been experimenting with injection of water on fault lines to induce smaller, more frequent earthquakes rather than letting the pressure build up for less frequent, more violent ones.

Re:Tragic, maybe? (0)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718777)

I choose later. Preferrably after I'm dead.

Re:Tragic, maybe? (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718871)

I choose later. Preferrably after I'm dead.

Tell that to your grandchildren.

Re:Tragic, maybe? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719093)

The lil' sob's probably won't hear anyway, what with their loud music, and their hippin an their hoppin, and their bippin and their boppin.

GET OFF MY LAWN!

Re:Tragic, maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719127)

*begins writing a letter to grandchildren*

Dear grandchildren, you will receive this letter when I have passed on. One word of warning: we chose to have an earthquake later instead of when we were alive, so...yeah. Also why don't you write me more often?

Now get off my lawn!

Re:Tragic, maybe? (3, Funny)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719705)

Won't be able to. Remember? Dead.

Re:Tragic, maybe? (-1, Flamebait)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719631)

That's what makes borrow and spend so much better than tax and spend!

Sincerely,
the Republican Party

Re:Tragic, maybe? (1)

Sleepy (4551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719099)

So really you think it's better to have one massive earthquake and get it out of the way, vs. many smaller ones?

Re:Tragic, maybe? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720485)

False dichotomy. It's better to have many small ones, it's worse to have one large one later.

I feel a bad movie based on this where need to blo (3, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718583)

I feel a bad movie based on this where need to blow up dam to stop a super quake from happening is coming.

Re:I feel a bad movie based on this where need to (4, Interesting)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718659)

Sir Ranulph Fiennes (the famous arctic explorer, among other things) was actually kicked out of the SAS for destroying a dam using stolen explosives. You can google for more detailed accounts of the story, but here's one:

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/career-planning/getting-job/my-first-job-explorer-sir-ranulph-fiennes-was-an-sas-officer-420601.html [independent.co.uk]

NASA math at work. And yes,IAANB* (4, Interesting)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720387)

Maybe they can get this drilling crew on the mission to save the day! [youtube.com]

All humour aside, most people have no clue about the energy levels and destructive power available to natural forces, just on our world. (ie:water) Even engineers can fall prey to their preconceptions at times, if they are not diligent. Water is a powerful force, in scale.

Most people perceive the Earth as a solid/stable surface to build on(dig to 'bedrock' for the foundation, etc...), frequently forgetting Earth more resembles a poultry egg: relatively thin shell covering/encasing a liquid center...and just as fragile on scale.

At our most terrible destructive level available technologically to humans today, we are still just 'wannabe' punks in the big picture. Actually, I would argue that communication tech is the most powerful weapon/tech we have devised to date.

*(IAANB) I Am A NASA Brat![clarification of subject line]-just could not pass this one up. And NOT trying to pick on engineers, who have demanding job requirements, but there is a good reason to put erasers on pencils! :-)

Sorry if this was more than you bargained for trying to make a 'funny', but you did raise a valid point! :-)

Re:I feel a bad movie based on this where need to (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720509)

Oh yeah, only Jackie Chan and Jet Li can save us now. Sounds like Kung Fu gold.

Re:I feel a bad movie based on this where need to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26720589)

If adding tons of water within days is enough to threaten the stability of a fault, obviously removing tons of water within minutes is the safest way to fix the problem. Yes, I can see the movie industry (which once depicted people being pursued by cold air [imdb.com] ) falling for that.

Prediction (5, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718587)

Chinese officials will conclude that the scientific findings are acurrate and convincing, will acknowledge that the dam did cause the quake, will apologize sincerely, and resign in disgrace. The replacements will then close down the dam, making sure to dismantle it in an ecologically sensible way, doing the least disruption to the surrounding communities as well, and every victim of the quake will be compensated accordingly. You know, much as it would happen here.

You really have to love government humility and responsibility.

Re:Prediction (4, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718713)

not to dodge your sarcasm, but the scientific findings are vague enough to blame the entire quake on Bush bombing people in iraq.

you never know what that one last MOAB will really do what with the butterfly effect and everything.

also if a quake hasn't happened in a million years then it just might be under a lot of stress, that doesn't easily go away.

Re:Prediction (3, Interesting)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718789)

Oh yeah, I was of course sidestepping the issue of "Is the finding ACTUALLY valid." Somewhat like what the chinese government will do, only they probably won't do it with sarcasm. It'd be refreshing if they did though.

Re:Prediction (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719405)

heck I am waiting for the USA government to admit they screwed up once, then hell really will be frozen over.

Re:Prediction (4, Funny)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720553)

heck I am waiting for the USA government to admit they screwed up once, then hell really will be frozen over.

Oh, please! The US government admits it screwed up regularly. Pretty much every time an new President is elected, he admits his predecessor screwed up.

Re:Prediction (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26718749)

Well if there was a similar spot to build a dam along the San Andreas fault and a similar river to feed it that much water, plus environmentalists failed to stop it from being built, then either California would improve its water situation or some folks might be celebrating their ocean front property in Arizona. Hawaii, Japan, China, etc might be hearing shouts of "Surfs up Dudes!".

Re:Prediction (4, Funny)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718823)

Thanks a lot man! because of your comment, I won't be able to read slashdot the next time I'm over there.

Re:Prediction (3, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719467)

What are you talking about? That post was 100% not sarcastic! Higher praise for the chinese government has never been seen on slashdot!

Re:Prediction (5, Informative)

Malc (1751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718927)

Hessler's River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze [amazon.co.uk] is a great account of an American journalist living in China in an area to be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam. He quite clearly articulates how the people of China passively accept things like this. It's a great read, especially if you've even been to the country. Quite often though, the people think their government is correct and efficient, and that you have to accept some inconvenience for a better future for all. As always, the government is a symptom of the people, and vice-versa.

Re:Prediction (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26720005)

Back in the 40s and 50s Americans also used to just sigh and call it the "Price of progress." There used to be widespread acceptance of infrastructure development. Attitudes started changing in the 60's and 70's. It's a lot easier to be against infrastructure development when you live in a nation with well developed infrastructure.

Re:Prediction (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720141)

Why dismantle the dam? The earthquake has already happened, presumably dissipating the additional stress caused by it's presence.

Removing the dam would probably destabilize the geology, at this point.

Re:Prediction (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720527)

You forgot the part about draining the dam causing another massive earthquake. Oops.

Re:Prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26720561)

And then we've find out that behind the dam was the source of all of that melamine rather than water

Social justice requires desalination (-1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718607)

This earthquake killed a lot of people and ruined the lives of countless others. That effect was disproportionate on the poor.

Perhaps desalination is the most socially responsible source of clean drinking water. Let's use clean nuke power and use it for massive desalination. Clean energy can solve the world's water crisis without killing poor people.

Re:Social justice requires desalination (3, Insightful)

Orne (144925) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718631)

This is the country that strictly enforces a one-child-per-family law, and you think the Chinese government actually wants more people to take care of?

Re:Social justice requires desalination (5, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718917)

That effect was disproportionate on the poor.

Every natural disaster has a disproportionate effect on the poor! That's just one of the many, many reasons why it sucks to be poor!

Re:Social justice requires desalination (1, Insightful)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719691)

Katrina, for example. Still wondering if help wouldn't have been more efficient and fast if the people there were rich, influential. Top Gear went there a year after and it still looked like a war zone. Not as if the US doesn't have any money, there's apparently enough to bail out some high-salaried bankers, it's just that the investments are disproportionate to the poor.

Re:Social justice requires desalination (4, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719821)

Sorry folks.
They would have been better off if they hadn't elected the idiot Mayor and Governor.
People like to blame FEMA but FEMA did they typical job. The local and state governments where criminal.
It was the local government that failed to use the school buses to evacuate the people. Heck they even left them in the flood plane. My city has been hit by three storms. The School buses are always moved to stageing areas near shelters. The state government put police out side New Orleans to keep the people IN after the storm.
Heck the state didn't even have shelters for all the people. Texas had to provide shelters.
What really ticks me off is people forget about Mississippi. They took the worst hit for Katrina. They had a HUGE store surge that took out whole sections of their coast line. They had many homes whipped out but you don't see people up in arms because their state and local governments where a lot more effective.
What is the worst part. That idiot moron of a mayor GOT REELECTED!!!!!!!!!!!

Re:Social justice requires desalination (4, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720215)

What is the worst part. That idiot moron of a mayor GOT REELECTED!!!!!!!!!!!

And, bringing it around full circle, electing terrible leadership is a consequence of being poor and uneducated. The people re-electing the mayor bought the line that the federal government was primarily responsible for the mishandling, and probably made a Bush joke or two... not understanding what role the state and federal governments were supposed to play.

The feds should be thanked for cleaning up the mess Louisiana got itself into.

Re:Social justice requires desalination (1)

Aellus (949929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719003)

You do realize that a dam is a source of clean energy, right? Ever heard of hydro-electric power? Turbines?

Re:Social justice requires desalination (5, Informative)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719041)

This earthquake killed a lot of people and ruined the lives of countless others. That effect was disproportionate on the poor.

This earthquake killed less than 100,000 people.

In 1931, the flooding of a different river (the Yellow river) killed 3.7 millions. And thirty years before that, another flood in China killed 1 million people.

Flooding kills poor people. Dams prevent flooding.

Re:Social justice requires desalination (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719503)

Flooding kills poor people.

Most natural disasters affect the poor more than any others. The more wealthy usually have either better living conditions that can survive the event, or the means to leave the area. Or both.

Like you said -- dams prevent flooding (until they fail). Which just means the poor escape one disaster and replace it with another. It still sucks to be poor. Always has, always will.

Re:Social justice requires desalination (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720325)

Dams don't prevent flooding. They just move it somewhere else.

Re:Social justice requires desalination (5, Insightful)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720655)

Dams don't prevent flooding. They just move it somewhere else.

Right, and we know exactly where that somewhere else is (right behind the dam) and we don't build houses there anymore because it's a lake.

Dams prevent catastrophic, uncontrolled flooding by buffering the surge in a lake and letting it out slowly. The Ohio River no longer floods because of the hundreds of artificial lakes created in its watershed, for instance.

Re:Social justice requires desalination (3, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720003)

"This earthquake killed a lot of people and ruined the lives of countless others. That effect was disproportionate on the poor."

Chinese poor have always been expendable. They are easily replaced, and their rulers have always understood this.

To quote Ron Simmons (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26718613)

DAM

the government is blameless (4, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718669)

let's say they know dams cause earthquakes. ok, so there will be some minor earthquakes. but 7.9? no one is going to predict anything that large

still, let's assume the dam is still the trigger for the 7.9 earthquake. emphasis on trigger. its going to happen someday anyway

if they never built the dam, we'd be talking about the 7.9 or 8.3 sichuan earthquake of 2031 or 2102

Re:the government is blameless (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26718825)

if they never built the dam, we'd be talking about the 7.9 or 8.3 sichuan earthquake of ... 2102

No we wouldn't, because we'd all be dead and it would be "somebody else's problem".

quid pro quo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26718791)

Dear world governments and corporations,

It's not that I'm a naive left-winger or wack-job environmentalist or tree-hugging hippie or anything of that sort. But for crying out loud, have you not noticed a pattern here? No? Then I'll spell it out for you as bluntly as I know how:

When you fuck with nature, nature fucks with you.

Thank you,
Anonymous Coward
Proud Member of the Common Sense Brigade

Re:quid pro quo (0)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718845)

Dear Member of Common Sense Brigade,

"When I fuck with nature, nature fucks with some poor bastard who'll never be able to touch me."

Sincerely, World Governments and Corporations

Re:quid pro quo (5, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718915)

Don't worry, I'll find a way.

Sincerely, Nature

Dear nutjobs (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718865)

Let me spell it out for **you**.

When you build on a fault line, nature is going to give you a big fucking shake sometime.

Building a dam nearby might bring the event forward a bit, but it's going to happen anyway.

How do they know it's never happened before? (4, Interesting)

Hans Lehmann (571625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718847)

The Sichuan region is earthquake-prone, but has not seen anything as large as the 7.9-magnitude quake for perhaps millions of years

Would a 7.9 quake, although large by earthquake standards, even leave evidence that lasted more than, say, 1000 years? You might be able to tell if you took a cross section of the entire fault line, I suppose, but not all fault lines are known. A L.A. city geologist found a previously unknown (but not currently active) fault under the house of a friend of mine when he was having some drainage work done; new ones are discovered all the time.

Re:How do they know it's never happened before? (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720019)

Yes, it would. Off the top of my head, I can think of two classic examples in the US easily visible to regular people, the San Andreas fault and the thrust fault that forms the steep eastern face of the Grand Tetons. In each case, it's easy to figure out how much the fault has moved each time an earthquake occurs. For example, the San Andreas fault slides sideways during an earthquake and displaces streams and geographical features. I believe that they can trace to some degree the earthquake record for the past few thousand years. Similarly, the face of the Grand Teton mountains lifts after each major quake, exposing a fresh patch of earth and rock. I dimly recall they have dated these giving an estimate of a magnitude 7 earthquake every 400-700 years.

My belief is that if the geological record for earthquakes were studied properly, we would find that a magnitude 7.9 earthquake is indeed typical for that particular fault (much less the area). It's quite possible that the dam was the trigger for the quake, but it's not so likely that it amplified the energy release of the quake. If it did, however, I would guess wildly that the mechanism would be reduced energy loss to friction.

Re:How do they know it's never happened before? (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720181)

Zhang Heng invented an earthquake detector in China in 132 AD, so yes. There is Chinese earthquake data going back well over 1000 years.

Re:How do they know it's never happened before? (2, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720597)

That earthquake detector was only for determining the direction of the quake, it could not measure the strength. And has it ever been determine if it even worked properly? I'm sure it was fine at detecting shaking that it had been shaked, but it seems to me that the direction wouldn't be very reliable.

Who gives a Fuck? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26718851)

THere are billions of chinese left.

Nothing too see here... (0, Offtopic)

Muckluck (759718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718873)

Just move along...

Re:Nothing too see here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719217)

Thanks for your relevant and insightful comment, pause, not. -Borat, 2005

not cost-effective (1)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718905)

Triggering a quake by building such a huge dam is not cost-effective. The Chinese could have gotten the same quake for less money by getting everyone to climb up on a chair and jump at the same time.

What about Three Gorges Dam? (1)

relikx (1266746) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718973)

That monumental earth-shattering project is much larger in scope. It is 315 miles from the Sichuan earthquake's epicenter but in any case, if this phenomenon is true perhaps it may not have been related to this earthquake but will wreak havoc one day. Of course, they can just keep denying anything and not worry about the dam impact.

Dam survived. (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26718995)

The real interest here is that the dam survived the quake, right?

Just Wait (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719031)

If this is true, then just wait until the Three Gorges begins to top off (it has been filling for years now and has some time to go.)

Slow news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719125)

Why did this take so long to get into mainstream media? According to a well-hidden footnote on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] it was in Science on January 16. I read about it a week ago in a German newspaper [sueddeutsche.de] .

please forgive the base humour (0, Offtopic)

passiveNecro (1070344) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719135)

hehehe zipping poo hehehe

Best name ever! (5, Funny)

mmatador22 (1230758) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719331)

Hahahaha - Zipping Poo... Best name for a dam ever!

Someone ought to tell the Chinese government... (0)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719407)

No dam for you!

How is the dam? (0, Flamebait)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26719933)

Not sure that I would want to be located downstream from a chinese built dam.

zipingpu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26719971)

Did anyone else read that as Zipping Poo Dam?

Brings up the question (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720041)

that if we reomve a dam, as many people think we should do, would that also precipitate an earthquake? After all, we'd be changing the stresses on the fault.

Fascinating subject; I never knew before this that a dam could actually cause an earthquake. Makes sense when you think about it but I never thought about it since I've had little to do with dams aside from getting most of my power from them.

Re:Brings up the question (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720137)

reomve

Yeesh, the one time I don't speel (sic) check. :-\

Millions of years? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720573)

has not seen anything as large as the 7.9-magnitude quake for perhaps millions of years

Yes but records only go back for a few thousand years, when the hall of records was mysteriously destroyed somehow.

(with apologies to the Simpsons)

actively obstructing (0, Troll)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26720783)

The Chinese government denies any connection between the dam and the earthquake and seems to be actively obstructing the access of scientists who want to investigate.

Well, it's a Wonderful thing We've never Witnessed a gov't like that in the USA. Knock on Wood.
   

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