Jesse Dykstra

Front Row Seat to the Japanese Tsunami - Shaken Not Stirred

Sep 30, 2011

The 11 March 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami in northeastern Japan caused nearly 30,000 deaths and damaged over 125,000 buildings. The Pacific plate shifted by up to 20 m, over a fault-rupture length of 300-400 km. The tsunami waves caused by this displacement overwhelmed Japanese tsunami defences (some tsunami walls were over 10 m high), in part because coastal areas sunk by up to 2 m following the earthquake. This video of the tsunami was taken by a dashboard camera in a car that was presumably abandoned on the road. It’s a different perspective. The currents & debris seem to swirl around and come from different directions, perhaps as new wave fronts conflict with receding waters. How terrifying, especially for those trapped in or on top of floating cars. Read More

E for Effort: The EQC Report Card (Part 2) - Shaken Not Stirred

Aug 30, 2011 How Has the EQC Performed Following the Canterbury Earthquakes? How would the EQC cope, when faced with the monumental task of managing nearly 400,000 claims from two major events in close succession? That was always going to be a tall order. Nearly one year on from the Greendale fault rupture, what can we say about the EQCs performance? Unsurprisingly, the EQC has struggled to cope, and have been facing increasing criticism on several issues following the Christchurch earthquakes, including: • withholding contractor payment for repairs (article here) • length of time to process claims (article here) • duplication of effort within EQC, and with private insurers • lack of communication with homeowners and contractors While I expect that the EQC had every intention of addressing the concerns raised in the 2009 review (see … Read More

E for Effort: The EQC Report Card (Part 1) - Shaken Not Stirred

Aug 30, 2011

MARTIN DE RUYTER/The Nelson Mail Perhaps it’s a good time to give the EQC a preliminary grade on their performance following the Canterbury earthquakes. After all, New Zealand homeowners pay EQC premiums every year to help ensure that our communities are able to recover from natural disasters. So, has the EQC met the expectations of the public that they serve? And are those expectations realistic, given the limited size (only 21 regular full-time employees) and resources of the EQC? Who are the EQC? What do they do? By now, many New Zealanders will be well accustomed to what may be the most-uttered acronym in New Zealand, EQC. EQC was established in 1945 by central government to “provide earthquake and war damage cover for purchasers of fire insurance” ( For nearly 50 years EQC premiums have been collected from residential … Read More

Christchurch no More Risky than Wellington. But Does That Make a Good News Story? - Shaken Not Stirred

Jun 01, 2011

Wellington Faults. Source: GNS Science CERA Meeting Scares Media Some media outlets have put a rather negative spin on GNS Science’s most recent earthquake forecast for the central Canterbury region, which was discussed at a recent meeting of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). GNS’s latest forecasting model estimates the probability of a “large” (magnitude 6.0 to 6.9) event occurring within the region over the next 12 months to be 23%, dropping to 10% over the following year. The forecast figures provoked a bit of a media feeding frenzy. “Strong chance of another big shake” trumpeted the New Zealand Herald yesterday morning. “Big earthquake risk put at 23 percent” read yesterdays’ headline on Clearly such headlines are not good for the progress of Christchurch’s recovery, or indeed for the nation’s $9 billion tourism industry. Enticing overseas visitors to … Read More

Canterbury Earthquake Update: Aftershocks ‘exactly what we expected’ - Shaken Not Stirred

Jan 27, 2011

Source: The Press In a recent Press Opinion piece, earthquake and tectonic expert Dr. Kevin Furlong explained the distribution of aftershocks following the Darfield earthquake, and why we shouldn’t be surprised by what we have learned, and felt, so far. His article can be viewed by clicking the following link:  Dr Furlong, Opinion piece. Kevin Furlong is a Professor of Geosciences at Penn State University, and is currently a visiting Erskine Fellow at the University of Canterbury. Dr. Furlong was in Canterbury on the 4th of September, 2010, and was one of the first scientists in the field after the magnitude 7.1 earthquake. Dr. Furlong’s public lecture after the earthquake was attended by hundreds of people, as was a subsequent lecture by University of Canterbury Geological Sciences Professor Dr. Mark Quigley. Both lectures may be linked here: … Read More

Queensland Flooding: “Australia’s Worst Natural Disaster” - Shaken Not Stirred

Jan 12, 2011

Flash Flooding in Toowoomba. Source: Reuters   Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard have called the recent flooding in Queensland the “worst natural disaster in our history”. Three-quarters of the state of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone (source: Brisbane times). Flooding has affected over 200,000 people in the Fitzroy, Burnett, Condamine, Mary and Brisbane river basins (flood map here). A total of 41 deaths have so far been attributed to the flooding, and 67 people remain missing. The worst flooding of the last 48 hours has affected the Brisbane river basin. Toowoomba. Grantham. Ipswitch. Brisbane. Each community in turn has borne the brunt of floodwaters from the Lockyer valley, with flood levels exceeding the great flood of 1974. Flash flooding in Toowoomba quickly inundated the town, catching many by surprise, and killing … Read More

Haiti – One Year On, Still in Ruin - Shaken Not Stirred

Jan 12, 2011

 Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images On 12 January, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck one of the world’s poorest nations, killing as many as 230,000 people, and leaving nearly 2 million homeless   The 2010 Haitia earthquake was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. One year on from the earthquake that devastated Port au Prince, at least 800,000 people remain homeless, living in temporary tent encampments. Prior to the earthquake the majority of Haitians earned less than  $2 US per day. Today, the majority of the population of Port au Prince remains jobless. Many have moved away from the city in search of work and family support  (as many as 600,000 by some estimates). Many homes in Port au Prince were constructed with poor or non-existant building standards. Most damaged or destroyed … Read More

Climate Change, Natural Disasters and Human Vulnerability - Shaken Not Stirred

Jan 06, 2011

Is Climate Change the Greatest Modern Threat Facing Humankind? How many human lives have been lost as a direct result of global warming (anthropogenic or otherwise) over the past decade? Thousands? Tens of thousands? More? When extreme weather events result in natural disasters, we tend to immediately blame climate change. Three of the worst weather-related natural disasters of 2010, the Russian heat wave, flooding in Pakistan and flooding in Columbia/Venezuela, killed a combined total of over 20,000 people, and have largely been blamed on climate change (example).  However, it is shortsighted to blame all of those deaths solely on climate change. Can we say with confidence that these events wouldn’t have happened without climate change? We must recognize that increasing human vulnerability has played a major role in these disasters. In Pakistan for example, the disaster was amplified by a number of human factors, including inadequate flood-control infrastructure on the heavily … Read More