Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hurricane Flossy (or: in which correlation is not causation)

This is the current predicted track for Hurricane Flossy:

My first reaction was: "oh, good - it looks like the 5-day cone doesn't include Hawaii any more."

My second reaction was: "wow, the predicted track is almost parallel to the trend of the Hawaiian/Emperor seamount chain! That means it's almost the same as the motion of the Pacific plate!"

Lessons from this:

1) Sometimes people see what they're trained to look for, even when there isn't a good reason to see it.

2) I, for example, teach plate tectonics way too much.

Though I am tempted to make up a reason why a hurricane storm surge would make an earthquake on the Big Island more likely. I don't know if the reason would be valid, though - my explanation would have to do with pore fluid pressure, but I doubt that the little extra weight of water from a storm surge would make a difference for an earthquake that occurs at a depth of 17 km. (I'm also not sure why there's a thrust focal mechanism for the earthquake. It's interesting to speculate about, though.)

No comments: