Preparing for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Scenario Earthquakes for Urban Areas Along the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States

NYCEM

The Sixth Seal: NY City Destroyed

The Sixth Seal: NY City Destroyed

If today a magnitude 6 earthquake were to occur centered on New York City, what would its effects be? Will the loss be 10 or 100 billion dollars? Will there be 10 or 10,000 fatalities? Will there be 1,000 or 100,000 homeless needing shelter? Can government function, provide assistance, and maintain order?

At this time, no satisfactory answers to these questions are available. A few years ago, rudimentary scenario studies were made for Boston and New York with limited scope and uncertain results. For most eastern cities, including Washington D.C., we know even less about the economic, societal and political impacts from significant earthquakes, whatever their rate of occurrence.

Why do we know so little about such vital public issues? Because the public has been lulled into believing that seriously damaging quakes are so unlikely in the east that in essence we do not need to consider them. We shall examine the validity of this widely held opinion.

Is the public’s earthquake awareness (or lack thereof) controlled by perceived low Seismicity, Seismic Hazard, or Seismic Risk? How do these three seismic features differ from, and relate to each other? In many portions of California, earthquake awareness is refreshed in a major way about once every decade (and in some places even more often) by virtually every person experiencing a damaging event. The occurrence of earthquakes of given magnitudes in time and space, not withstanding their effects, are the manifestations of seismicity. Ground shaking, faulting, landslides or soil liquefaction are the manifestations of seismic hazard. Damage to structures, and loss of life, limb, material assets, business and services are the manifestations of seismic risk. By sheer experience, California’s public understands fairly well these three interconnected manifestations of the earthquake phenomenon. This awareness is reflected in public policy, enforcement of seismic regulations, and preparedness in both the public and private sector. In the eastern U.S., the public and its decision makers generally do not understand them because of inexperience. Judging seismic risk by rates of seismicity alone (which are low in the east but high in the west) has undoubtedly contributed to the public’s tendency to belittle the seismic loss potential for eastern urban regions.

Let us compare two hypothetical locations, one in California and one in New York City. Assume the location in California does experience, on average, one M = 6 every 10 years, compared to New York once every 1,000 years. This implies a ratio of rates of seismicity of 100:1. Does that mean the ratio of expected losses (when annualized per year) is also 100:1? Most likely not. That ratio may be closer to 10:1, which seems to imply that taking our clues from seismicity alone may lead to an underestimation of the potential seismic risks in the east. Why should this be so?

To check the assertion, let us make a back-of-the-envelope estimate. The expected seismic risk for a given area is defined as the area-integrated product of: seismic hazard (expected shaking level), assets ($ and people), and the assets’ vulnerabilities (that is, their expected fractional loss given a certain hazard – say, shaking level). Thus, if we have a 100 times lower seismicity rate in New York compared to California, which at any given point from a given quake may yield a 2 times higher shaking level in New York compared to California because ground motions in the east are known to differ from those in the west; and if we have a 2 times higher asset density (a modest assumption for Manhattan!), and a 2 times higher vulnerability (again a modest assumption when considering the large stock of unreinforced masonry buildings and aged infrastructure in New York), then our California/New York ratio for annualized loss potential may be on the order of (100/(2x2x2)):1. That implies about a 12:1 risk ratio between the California and New York location, compared to a 100:1 ratio in seismicity rates.

From this example it appears that seismic awareness in the east may be more controlled by the rate of seismicity than by the less well understood risk potential. This misunderstanding is one of the reasons why earthquake awareness and preparedness in the densely populated east is so disproportionally low relative to its seismic loss potential. Rare but potentially catastrophic losses in the east compete in attention with more frequent moderate losses in the west. New York City is the paramount example of a low-probability, high-impact seismic risk, the sort of risk that is hard to insure against, or mobilize public action to reduce the risks.

There are basically two ways to respond. One is to do little and wait until one or more disastrous events occur. Then react to these – albeit disastrous – “windows of opportunity.” That is, pay after the unmitigated facts, rather than attempt to control their outcome. This is a high-stakes approach, considering the evolved state of the economy. The other approach is to invest in mitigation ahead of time, and use scientific knowledge and inference, education, technology transfer, and combine it with a mixture of regulatory and/or economic incentives to implement earthquake preparedness. The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) has attempted the latter while much of the public tends to cling to the former of the two options. Realistic and reliable quantitative loss estimation techniques are essential to evaluate the relative merits of the two approaches.

The current efforts in the eastern U.S., including New York City, to start the enforcement of seismic building codes for new constructions are important first steps in the right direction. Similarly, the emerging efforts to include seismic rehabilitation strategies in the generally needed overhaul of the cities’ aged infrastructures such as bridges, water, sewer, power and transportation is commendable and needs to be pursued with diligence and persistence. But at the current pace of new construction replacing older buildings and lifelines, it will take many decades or a century before a major fraction of the stock of built assets will become seismically more resilient than the current inventory is. For some time, this leaves society exposed to very high seismic risks. The only consolation is that seismicity on average is low, and, hence with some luck, the earthquakes will not outpace any ongoing efforts to make eastern cities more earthquake resilient gradually. Nevertheless, M = 5 to M = 6 earthquakes at distances of tens of km must be considered a credible risk at almost any time for cities like Boston, New York or Philadelphia. M = 7 events, while possible, are much less likely; and in many respects, even if building codes will have affected the resilience of a future improved building stock, M = 7 events would cause virtually unmanageable situations. Given these bleak prospects, it will be necessary to focus on crucial elements such as maintaining access to cities by strengthening critical bridges, improving the structural and nonstructural performance of hospitals, and having a nationally supported plan how to assist a devastated region in case of a truly severe earthquake. No realistic and coordinated planning of this sort exists at this time for most eastern cities.

The current efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) via the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) to provide a standard methodology (RMS, 1994) and planning tools for making systematic, computerized loss estimates for annualized probabilistic calculations as well as for individual scenario events, is commendable. But these new tools provide only a shell with little regional data content. What is needed are the detailed data bases on inventory of buildings and lifelines with their locally specific seismic fragility properties. Similar data are needed for hospitals, shelters, firehouses, police stations and other emergency service providers. Moreover, the soil and rock conditions which control the shaking and soil liquefaction properties for any given event, need to be systematically compiled into Geographical Information System (GIS) data bases so they can be combined with the inventory of built assets for quantitative loss and impact estimates. Even under the best of conceivable funding conditions, it will take years before such data bases can be established so they will be sufficiently reliable and detailed to perform realistic and credible loss scenarios. Without such planning tools, society will remain in the dark as to what it may encounter from a future major eastern earthquake. Given these uncertainties, and despite them, both the public and private sector must develop at least some basic concepts for contingency plans. For instance, the New York City financial service industry, from banks to the stock and bond markets and beyond, ought to consider operational contingency planning, first in terms of strengthening their operational facilities, but also for temporary backup operations until operations in the designated facilities can return to some measure of normalcy. The Federal Reserve in its oversight function for this industry needs to take a hard look at this situation.

A society, whose economy depends increasingly so crucially on rapid exchange of vast quantities of information must become concerned with strengthening its communication facilities together with the facilities into which the information is channeled. In principle, the availability of satellite communication (especially if self-powered) with direct up and down links, provides here an opportunity that is potentially a great advantage over distributed buried networks. Distributed networks for transportation, power, gas, water, sewer and cabled communication will be expensive to harden (or restore after an event).

In all future instances of major capital spending on buildings and urban infrastructures, the incorporation of seismically resilient design principles at all stages of realization will be the most effective way to reduce society’s exposure to high seismic risks. To achieve this, all levels of government need to utilize legislative and regulatory options; insurance industries need to build economic incentives for seismic safety features into their insurance policy offerings; and the private sector, through trade and professional organizations’ planning efforts, needs to develop a healthy self-protective stand. Also, the insurance industry needs to invest more aggressively into broadly based research activities with the objective to quantify the seismic hazards, the exposed assets and their seismic fragilities much more accurately than currently possible. Only together these combined measures may first help to quantify and then reduce our currently untenably large seismic risk exposures in the virtually unprepared eastern cities. Given the low-probability/high-impact situation in this part of the country, seismic safety planning needs to be woven into both the regular capital spending and daily operational procedures. Without it we must be prepared to see little progress. Unless we succeed to build seismic safety considerations into everyday decision making as a normal procedure of doing business, society will lose the race against the unstoppable forces of nature. While we never can entirely win this race, we can succeed in converting unmitigated catastrophes into manageable disasters, or better, tolerable natural events.

Of Course There Will Be a Nuclear Armageddon (Revelation 15)

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FactCheck Q&A: Could there be a nuclear Armageddon?

By Martin Williams

4 JUL 2017

After a successful missile test, North Korea claims it is now a “full-fledged nuclear power” which is “capable of hitting any part of the world”.

Russia and the US believe this is a slight exaggeration, saying the missile actually had a medium-range and posed no immediate threat to either country.

But the development has scared many about the prospect of nuclear war. So how likely is it?

Who’s got nuclear weapons?

The US and Russia both reduced their nuclear weapon arsenal after the Cold War. But since the 1990s, the speed of this reduction has slowed down.

What’s more, because of constantly improving technology, the potential impact of each warhead is now far greater than it once was.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) says: “Comparing today’s inventory with that of the 1950s is like comparing apples and oranges; today’s forces are vastly more capable.

“The pace of reduction has slowed significantly. Instead of planning for nuclear disarmament, the nuclear-armed states appear to plan to retain large arsenals for the indefinite future.”

As far as we know, nine countries have nuclear weapons: Russia, the US, France, China, the UK, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea. Between them, they are thought to have around 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Of these, Russia and the US have by far the most. But the FAS says that China, Pakistan, India and North Korea appear to have been increasing their stockpiles, while the others are either reducing the numbers or making no significant changes.

We can’t be sure of exact numbers because of the high level of secrecy, not least in North Korea.

Israel has also refused to confirm or deny its arsenal, but it is widely suspected to have about 80 nuclear warheads and enough plutonium to make many more.

Out of the 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, the majority are not immediately deployable. A report by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research in 2012 estimated that the US, UK, France and Russia had around 1,940 warheads which were “ready for use on short notice”.

The report said the numbers were so high because of “circular (though flawed) logic”.

“US nuclear forces are maintained on alert because Russian nuclear forces are on alert, and vice versa for Russian forces. Put in another way, if nuclear forces were not on alert, there would be no requirement to keep nuclear forces on alert.”

What would happen in a nuclear war?

After the US dropped a nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, an initial report said that two-thirds of the people who were within half a mile of the blasts had been killed. People suffered skin burns up to two miles away.

The final death toll of Hiroshima alone is now estimated to be between 66,000 and 150,000.

That was more than 70 years ago, though. Nuclear weapons today can be many, many times more powerful.

And that’s to say nothing of the economic, political and social consequences, which could potentially be monumental.

Bill Perry, a nuclear weapons expert who served as President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense spoke to Vice earlier this year. He said a worst case scenario would now mean nothing short of a total Armageddon.

“An all-out general nuclear war between the United States and Russia would mean no less than the end of civilisation,” Perry said. “That’s not being dramatic; that’s not being hyperbolic. That’s just what would happen.”

How likely is a nuclear war?

The world survived the Cold War without nuclear weapons being used. And with the main two nuclear powers reducing their arsenals, it might be tempting to think the risk is reducing.

But global security threats are very different to what they once were. And one bomb could lead to retaliation strikes.

Bill Perry said he believes the most likely scenario for a nuclear attack would be if a terrorist group got hold of a small amount of enriched uranium, allowing them to make an improvised nuclear bomb.

“Of all of the nuclear catastrophes that could happen, this is the most probable,” he said. “I think I would say it’s probably an even chance that this will happen sometime in the next ten years.”

He added: “We have the possibility of a regional nuclear war, between Pakistan and India, for example. Even if they used only half of their nuclear arsenal, those bombs would put enough smoke in the air – enough dust in the air – that will go up and settle in the stratosphere and then distribute itself around the planet and would block the rays of the sun for years to come.

“It could be millions of people who die from that alone.”

Trump’s Nuclear Fallacy

Dangerous Nuclear Decisions

By Louis René Beres | Opinion Contributor

July 4, 2017, at 7:00 a.m.

Our national independence suggests more than an annual pretext for bluster, bravado and fireworks. It also expresses a complex legal and philosophical concept warranting continuous reassessment. In this connection, despite President Donald Trump’s vast efforts at public deflection via ad hominem attacks, it is high time for Americans to confront the most overriding danger of presidential debility.

This singular peril is the conspicuously growing threat of a president who is emotionally and intellectually incapable of rendering well-reasoned nuclear command decisions.

As I know personally from almost 50 years of scholarship on such matters, there are various structural protections built into any presidential order to use nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, virtually all of these mostly redundant safeguards would become operational only at lower command levels; plainly, they do not apply at the highest level of national decisional authority.

In essence, there exist no permissible or codified legal grounds to disobey a presidential order to use nuclear weapons. To be sure, in principle at least, individuals in the military chain of command could sometimes invoke pertinent Nuremberg obligations to resist crimes of state, but any such last-minute invocation would almost certainly yield to substantially more obvious manifestations of U.S. domestic law, both statutory and constitutional.

If an American president were ever to issue an irrational or seemingly irrational nuclear command, the only way for the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the national security advisor and several possible others to meaningfully obstruct this order would be illegal on its face. Conceivably, such informal safeguards might somehow manage to work, but we really still ought to inquire about implementing more suitably predictable and promising institutional impediments.

This inquiry should be immediate.

History may deserve pride of place. In candor, we Americans are navigating here in generally uncharted waters. While President John F. Kennedy did engage in personal nuclear brinkmanship with the Soviet Union back in October 1962, he had then calculated his own odds of a resultant nuclear war as “between one out of three and even.”

This troubling calculation, corroborated both by top JFK aide Theodore Sorensen and by my own private conversations with former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke, suggests that Kennedy was either genuinely irrational in imposing his Cuban “quarantine,” or instead that he was acting out completely untested (in a nuclear crisis context) principles of “pretended irrationality.”

There is more. For JFK, following his U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, the term “quarantine” was chosen because “blockade” was presumptively more belligerent, more of an incontestable casus belli, more patently legitimizing as a cause of possible war.

Today, Trump, without any hint of nuance or a scintilla of serious thought, has several-times heaped seat-of-the-pants praise upon pretending irrationality. This unreflective argument was advanced not because the president is in any way personally acquainted with U.S. nuclear strategy, but rather as a “common sense” metaphor drawn viscerally from commercial real estate negotiations. To successfully “play” such a dialectical strategy – to even pry into it interpretively – would call for a far greater depth of historical understanding and analytic subtlety than he could ever be expected to display.

In more expressly scientific terms, this means that Trump, in addition to any evident personal debilities he might bring to the delicate game, would have no credible way to determine the probable outcome of his planned or considered actions. None at all.

The reason for this uncertainty is straightforward and utterly non-political. It exists because all scientific judgments of probability must be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events. By definition, unless we count JFK’s willingness to escalate in 1962, there simply are no pertinent past events.

Going forward, the most serious threat of a misconceived or irrational U.S. presidential order to use nuclear weapons flows not from any “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack – whether Russian, North Korean or American – but from an incoherent escalatory process that has run amok. Fortunately, in 1962, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked” early on in the game, and thereby avoided mutual and possibly irrecoverable nuclear harms. Looking ahead, however, especially to any expanding crises with North Korea, escalatory initiatives undertaken by Trump would plausibly express fully ad hoc decision-making.

Such initiatives might not meet with any reassuringly Khrushchev-type concession. Such initiatives could end with bitterly unforeseen and unacceptable costs.

In principle, at least, it is vital that Trump understand the very great risks of being locked into an escalatory dynamic from which there could be no release other than capitulation or nuclear war. Although the American president might be entirely well advised to seek “escalation dominance” in any upcoming crisis negotiations with the Russians or North Koreans, also required would be a corollary caution to avoid catastrophic miscalculations. Ominously, in this connection, the more numerous the participating national players, the more complicated and perilous any such negotiations would become.

Like it or not, at one time or another, nuclear strategy is a bewildering game that Trump will almost certainly have to play. To best ensure that this disinterested president’s calculated moves will be rational, purposeful and tactically cost-effective, it will first be necessary to enhance the formal decisional authority of his most senior military and defense subordinates. At a minimum, the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security advisor, and one or two others in pertinent nuclear command positions should prepare for undertaking more fully collaborative judgments in extremis atomicum.

Korea Can Now Nuke the US

North Korea says its ICBM can carry nuclear warhead; U.S. calls for global action

Tue Jul 4, 2017 | 10:43 PM EDT

By Jack Kim and Christine Kim | SEOUL

North Korea said on Wednesday its newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can carry a large nuclear warhead, triggering a call by Washington for global action to hold it accountable for pursuing nuclear weapons.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department said it had concluded that North Korea test-launched an ICBM on Tuesday, which some experts now believe had the range to reach the U.S. state of Alaska as well as parts of the mainland United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the test, on the eve of the U.S. Independence Day holiday, represented “a new escalation of the threat” to the United States and its allies, and vowed to take stronger measures.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the test completed his country’s strategic weapons capability that includes atomic and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs, the state KCNA news agency said.

Pyongyang would not negotiate with the United States to give up those weapons until Washington abandons its hostile policy against the North, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

“He, with a broad smile on his face, told officials, scientists and technicians that the U.S. would be displeased … as it was given a ‘package of gifts’ on its ‘Independence Day’,” KCNA said.

Kim ordered them to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees,” it added.

The launch came days before leaders from the Group of 20 nations are due to discuss steps to rein in North Korea’s weapons program, which it has pursued in defiance of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

The test successfully verified the technical requirements of the newly developed ICBM in stage separation, the atmospheric re-entry of the warhead and the late-stage control of the warhead, KCNA said.

Tillerson warned that any country that hosts North Korean workers, provides economic or military aid to Pyongyang, or fails to implement U.N. sanctions “is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime”.

“All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Tillerson said in a statement.

DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE

U.S. President Donald Trump has been urging China, North Korea’s main trading partner and only big ally, to press Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.

The U.N. Security Council, currently chaired by China, will hold an emergency meeting on the matter at 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, following a request by the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Diplomats say Beijing has not been fully enforcing existing international sanctions on its neighbor, and has resisted tougher measures, such as an oil embargo, bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers, and measures against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with the North.

A 2015 U.N. document estimated that more than 50,000 North Korean workers were overseas earning currencies for the regime, with the vast majority in China and Russia.

North Korea appeared to have used a Chinese truck, originally sold for hauling timber, but later converted for military use, to transport and erect the missile on Tuesday.

Trump has indicated he is running out of patience with Beijing’s efforts to rein in North Korea. His administration has said all options are on the table, military included, but suggested those would be a last resort and that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were its preferred course.

Trump is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 meeting in Germany this week.

Russia and China joined diplomatic forces on Tuesday and called for North Korea to suspend its ballistic missile program in return for a moratorium on large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries conducted a ballistic missile test early on Wednesday in a show of force on the east coast of the Korean peninsula. The South said the drill aimed to showcase the ability to strike at the North’s leadership if necessary.

“It’s discouraging that the Chinese (and Russians) are still calling for ‘restraint by all sides’, despite the fact that their client state, North Korea, has cast aside all restraint and is sprinting for the finish line in demonstrating a nuclear-armed ICBM capability,” said Daniel Russel, formerly Washington’s top East Asia diplomat, now a diplomat in residence at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

LONG-RANGE MISSILE

The North’s state media said the missile, Hwasong-14, flew 933 km (580 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,802 km (1,741 miles) in its 39 minutes of flight.

Some analysts said the flight details suggested the new missile had a range of more than 8,000 km (4,970 miles), which would put significant parts of the U.S. mainland in range, a major advance in the North’s program.

The launch was both earlier and “far more successful than expected”, said U.S.-based missile expert John Schilling, a contributor to the Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, 38 North.

It would now probably only be a year or two before a North Korean ICBM achieved “minimal operational capability,” he added.

Experts say a reliable nuclear-tipped ICBM would require a small warhead to fit a long-range missile, technology to protect against intense heat as it re-enters the atmosphere, separate the warhead and guide it to its target.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who ordered Wednesday’s drill, said, “The situation was no longer sufficient to respond to the North’s provocation by making statements,” according to his office.

Tuesday’s missile test poses fresh challenges for Moon, who took office in May with a pledge to engage the North in dialogue while keeping up pressure and sanctions to impede its weapons programs.

His defense minister, Han Min-koo, told parliament on Wednesday there was a high possibility of a sixth nuclear test by the North, but there were no specific indications.

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, David Brunnstrom and Phil Stewart in Washington and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Clarence Fernandez)