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Underwater Mudslides Are the Biggest Threat to Offshore Drilling, and Energy Companies Aren’t Ready for Them
By Ian MacDonald
Like generals planning for the last war, oil company managers and government inspectors tend to believe that because they survived the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, they are ready for all contingencies. Today they are expanding drilling into deeper and deeper waters, and the Trump administration is opening more offshore areas to production.
In fact, however, the worst-case scenario for an oil spill catastrophe is not losing control of a single well, as occurred in the BP disaster. Much more damage would be done if one or more of the thousand or so production platforms that now blanket the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed without warning by a deep-sea mudslide.
Noah Berger / AFP / Getty Images
In terms of natural disasters, 2018 was a really bad year. Communities in the United States and around the world were devastated by record-breaking wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other catastrophes.
Lamentably, these weather and geophysical events caused 10,400 human deaths and $160 billion in estimated damages last year, reinsurance company Munich Re said on Tuesday.
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It would appear that the resurgence of fracking in the UK is on very shaky ground. A company called Cuadrilla restarted the controversial technique at a site in Lancashire, in Northwest England, just two months ago after a seven year hiatus. But it spent a month of that time doing tests with smaller volumes of water after a series of small earthquakes in October, The Guardian reported.
Roughly 1,400 aftershocks have followed after Friday's monster 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck near Anchorage, Alaska, Anchorage Daily News reported.
The aftershocks all surrounded the original temblor that was centered about 7 miles north of Alaska's largest city.
The return of fracking to the UK is off to a truly shaky start.
Cuadrilla Resources, the company fracking two wells at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire in northwest England, confirmed Tuesday they had paused operations for the day after a tremor registered a magnitude of 0.4. Tuesday's tremor was only the largest of six that have been detected near the site since Cuadrilla began fracking again, The British Geological Survey said.
A string of small earthquakes were reported the town of Blackpool just days after fracking operations restarted in England after a seven year hiatus, raising concerns that the controversial drilling process could eventually trigger bigger temblors.
By Marlene Cimons
Researchers monitoring vibrations from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf were flabbergasted not long ago to hear something unexpected—the ice was "singing" to them. "We were stunned by a rich variety of time-varying tones that make up this newly described sort of signal," said Rick Aster, professor of geosciences at Colorado State University, one of the scientists involved in the study.
Northern Haiti is reeling after a 5.9 magnitude earthquake on Saturday and a 5.2 magnitude aftershock on Sunday.
"I urge the population to keep calm," Haitian President Jovenel Moïse tweeted Saturday. "The [disaster] risk management system and the regional branches of the Civil Protection are on standby to assist the inhabitants of the affected areas."
The death toll has climbed to more than 1,420 people since Friday, when the 7.5 magnitude earthquake and the 18-foot tsunami it triggered struck the island of Sulawesi.
The 7.5 magnitude earthquake was followed by a three foot tsunami that entered a narrow bay and swept past the town of Dongalla and into Palu. A tsunami warning was in place following the earthquake, but was rescinded before the tsunami actually struck because the water seemed to have receded. National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told BBC News that the Indonesian section of a Pacific-wide warning system following the 2004 tsunami suffered from lack of funding.