Saturday, January 03, 2009

McDonald's Employee in Olympia Thwarts Kidnapping Attempt on Child

by Michele Johansen & Lexie Tigre Seattle Story

excerpted from Seattle:

On December 19, 18 year-old Serenity LaChappelle saved a little girl from an attempted kidnapping at a McDonald's in Olympia. The story begins earlier that morning when Sheila Brown left her two children, Kasia, who is 8, and Devon, who is 10, at the Olympia library. Brown was in the process of moving her family to a homeless shelter in Olympia from one in Tacoma. Due to the snow, the library closed early and then Devon and Kasia went to the McDonald's across the street to wait for their mother.

While at the front counter, police allege that Richard Earl Knauss went up to the two kids and grabbed the girl on her shoulder. He instructed her to go with him but the young girl refused. She looked to LaChappelle, a McDonald's employee, for help and insisted she did not know the man. LaChappelle recalls, "She looked at me and she goes, 'I don't know him. I don't know him.'" LaChappelle then said to Knauss, "Sir. She says she does not know you. Please don't touch her." And with that, LaChappelle struggled with Knauss but was able to pull the girl over the counter to safety and then pulled her brother over as well.

Knauss ran away but was quickly found by police. He denied involvement and claimed he was not even at McDonald's. He later recanted his story but has pleaded not guilty to second-degree kidnapping.

It was heartwarming to read about LaChappelle's bravery, since it seems rare that situations such as these make the news. I know it is tempting to look at this and automatically look to the mother and judge her actions. Yes, these children are young and were left alone. Times hard, people, and I ask you to remember that she and her family were moving to a homeless shelter. Instead of focusing on that, think about LaChappelle and be thankful there really are heroes among us.

Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 9

Today has continued calm around Yellowstone Lake.  There has been just one earthquake today, just after midnight, and the ground shaking on the webcorders maintained by the University of Utah have also shown dramatically reduced activity.  This could indicate that the movement of magma underground has stopped, possibly due to blockage.  The most recent quakes were all at the northeast end of the lake, though, just where many of the largest hydrothermal explosions have occurred in the past - creating Mary Bay among many other features.  Time will tell if this calm represents the end of the swarm, or something else.  I'll post more updates if events warrant. 



Friday, January 02, 2009

Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 8

Things seem to be quieter this evening, perhaps following a pattern that has been ongoing since the swarm began - very active periods followed by calm periods.  We'll see if things get busy again by morning.  In the meantime, there was finally an update from Dr. Smith, reported by

"By Friday, January 2nd, Smith said over 500 tremors had been recorded around the north end of Yellowstone Lake. The biggest quake was a magnitude 3.9 - not big enough to cause damage. “This is a big deal”, said Smith, who has been studying the volcanic and geothermal activity at Yellowstone for over 30 years. There have been clusters, or “swarms” of quakes at Yellowstone before, but not this many for this long says Smith. “What’s important about them is that this is not normal, not usual to have these longer swarms so we pay particular scientific attention to them in terms of how they might relate to faults or to geysers or other hydrothermal features,” said Smith. "

Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 7

The earthquakes continue again today for the sixth day at Yellowstone.  Since midnight there have been nine quakes, and three greater than 3.1 magnitude.  The webcorders continue to show near constant ground movement, and it is possible that there have been more than these nine reported events as the seismologist reviews have been taking a while with so many events to review.  As of this morning there are 330 quakes shown on the list since last Saturday, but I notice that events that occurred yesterday are being added today, and the Yellowstone Volcano Center indicated that there have been over 400 yesterday, so that number could be much higher.  This morning's two most recent quakes - a 3.6 and a 3.1 - were located right at the north end of the lake.  The last two quakes were not only larger than normal in the swarm, but they were even closer to the surface - .18 kilometers and .1 kilometers.  This very shallow activity is what has me wondering if there will be a hydrothermal explosion.

Norris Geyser Basin in Winter

From the US News blog on this event - quoting an email from a Splunk member who crunched the numbers:

"I'm sending you this email with some information I've gleaned from the USGS archives.  I'm analyzing the ANSS data ( in an install of Splunk, which is a timeline based search and reporting engine.  I have 30 years of data in the system, with about 2M quakes total. 
Using  the ANSS data, I discovered the number of 2.5 or higher quakes in the *general* Yellowstone area for the decade of the 1980s was 128.  The number of 2.5 or higher quakes for the region directly around the lake in the *last 4 days* was 30. 
Again, for 2.5 mag or greater quakes:
Entire region of Yellowstone for 10 years = 128 quakes
Area just around Yellowstone Lake last 4 Days = 30 quakes
The entire 1980s of 2.5 or higher quakes in the vicinity of the lake was a paltry 4 quakes.  Doing a quick back of the envelope calculation using the number of quakes and the intensities, the  activity over the last 4 days has released roughly 100x the amount of energy released in the entire 1980s for the same general region.  In the last week alone there have been 10 quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater around the lake, with one as high as 3.8."


US News Blog discussing the past frequency of quakes

Illustration of the current Quake Swarm at Yellowstone

NEIC Earthquake List

Animation map

These show the webcorders just minutes ago - more jumps:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Another Theodore Roosevelt Gem

If we begin to think that the corruption we see in Washington and on Wall Street is something new, we need only read up on the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.  It is not new.  The abbreviated version is contained in the following quote:

"A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad."
                                                        --Theodore Roosevelt

Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 6

There is a new statement from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory tonight.  One interesting item to be gleaned is that though scientists have been reviewing the many quakes as rapidly as possible, they are at a point where they've only been able to analyze the larger quakes in the swarms, and have a backlog of as many as 400 events in the series yet to evaluate.  That is quite a backlog, and as long as the quake activity remains anywhere near the volume of the last five days, the backlog will only grow. 

Using the guarded language one would expect, the statement indicates that scientists are considering the possibility of hydrothermal explosions, or less likely, volcanic events, but it reads to me that they simply don't have the data available to predict what the follow on might likely be, and therefore rely on the statistically small likelihood that this is anything other than a larger than normal, longer than normal series of quakes.  Only time will tell. 

"The December 2008 earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years. No damage has been reported within Yellowstone National Park, nor would any be expected from earthquakes of this size. The swarm is in a region of historical earthquake activity and is close to areas of Yellowstone famous hydrothermal activity. Similar earthquake swarms have occurred in the past in Yellowstone without triggering steam explosions or volcanic activity. Nevertheless, there is some potential for hydrothermal explosions and earthquakes may continue or increase in magnitude. There is a much lower potential for related volcanic activity."



Amazing Photo of San Francisco in Ruins after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire

I just finished reading the book A Crack in the Edge of the World by Simon Winchester.  I've read about the disaster in San Francisco before, but as usual Winchester's book is a broad, thorough examination written to read as engagingly and pleasantly as a good novel.  It's hard to imagine the destruction of that quake and the fire that followed after.  This picture, taken from a balloon shortly after the fires died down shows just how total the destruction was. 

If you'd like to zoom in for greater detail follow the link:

Great Newspaper Ad from Chicago


Seen by Jason and reposted from

Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 5

The number of quakes has declined significantly today, and the webcorders are also showing reduced activity.  This may be the point where the event calms down, or it could be similar to Monday night, when the activity quieted down only to become even more active on Tuesday morning.  We'll see over the next twelve hours or so.  It could also be a precursor to a larger quake like the Hebgen Lake Quake, as there was a swarm followed by relative calm just prior to that event.  Of course, the un likely eruption or hydrothermal explosion is still a possibility,  Finally, the event could go on for weeks, according to Dr. Smith of the University of Utah.  Still no updates from Dr. Smith or his team and it has been since Monday.  The Salt Lake City station KSL reported yesterday that he is in Yellowstone himself monitoring events.  I suppose an update would be unsatisfying anyway, because it would likely include just basic information as it is clear from his earlier comments and follow-up with KSL that the geophysical world just has no data on how supervolcanoes behave prior to eruption or even large hyrdothermal explosions.  This means that many of us will continue to monitor the webcorders, USGS and U of U quake report pages to see what comes next.  Hopefully this will just be an interesting anomalous series of quakes and nothing more.  Hopefully.

The following US Geological Survey chart shows prior supervolcano activity in graphic form for reference on the relative size of the Yellowstone system:

Supervolcano eruption chart

NO! Absolutely No!

From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner

Obama's Notes on his First Day

Comic by Wolf Morganthaler

Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 4

The earthquakes continue this morning with ten quakes since midnight in the area of Yellowstone Lake.  This is a slower pace than we've seen, but the live webcorders seem to indicate a lot of harmonic activity continuing as well.  And the quakes have come in groups  with gap intervals over the past few days, so we'll have to see how day 5 finishes.  Here is the latest activity:

January 1, 2008 12:51 PM Earthquake List

Interesting Related Links:

Yellowstone Rising

Yellowstone Rising Map

3D Map of Yellowstone Magma Chamber

US News Interview with Chief Scientist at Yellowstone

Lowest Sunspot Activity Since 1900 Tied to Temperature Drop Over the Past Two Years?

The average temperature on earth has declined over the past two years by about half a degree Celsius - an amount that similar to the temperature increases reported over the past century.  This year may be the coldest on record in the past century.  All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) reported that during the period of January 2007 to January 2008, global temperatures have dropped significantly.   2008 has set a number of records for cold and snowfall.  In the U.S., NOAA recorded over 60 local snowfall records and more than 100 all-time low temperatures for the month of October.

This cooling trend - whatever its cause - was not predicted by climate models.  It was, however, predictable, at least according to some scientists who study sunspot activity.  Since 2000, sunspot activity has been in decline, and this year sunspot activity has matched an inactivity level not seen since the early 1900s.  The sunspot activity on the sun ordinarily follows an 11 year cycle where the activity peaks and then slows.  It isn't unusual to record 100 sunspots in a single month, and then as then cycle winds down, the number can decline to near zero.  Typically, a new cycle begins fairly quickly, but not this year.  Through July of this year the average monthly total  was three, and in August there were none recorded. 

According to the publication Daily Tech, over the last 1,000 years, there have been three previous similar events — known as the Dalton, Maunder and Sporer Minimums.  These events have each corresponded to rapid cooling. The largest came to be known as the Little Ice Age (1500-1750).  Geoscientists have found excellent correlations between periods of warming and cooling on earth and sunspot activity. 


That is not to say that human activity is a non-contributor to global climate.  But it is interesting to note the sunspot activity and the apparent correlation to global temperatures.  It will be interesting and to see if this period of cooling is prolonged, and should it be, may be a hidden benefit in that it may offset some of the climate change predicted to occur in the next century, giving us an extension that seems to be much needed in reducing the impact of human activity on climate.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year from Seattle!


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Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 3

It is interesting to note how much the ground deformation change instruments are indicating that the surface is rising at an increased rate in the area of the microquakes.  Does this, combined with the continued quakes under the area of the dome, and the area where most hydrothermal explosions have occurred indicate something is brewing?  I don't know, and I don't think the scientists know either.  It is somewhat strange that Dr. Smith has made no comments again today despite increasing focus on the phenomena.  Strange, but not necessarily meaningful.  Necessarily. 

Time Series Unfiltered Plot for WLWY


Here are today's quakes at the north end of Yellowstone Lake:

y/m/d h:m:s deg deg km

 2.1  2008/12/31 22:29:09 44.507N 110.309W  1.5   64 km (40 mi) SSW of  Cooke City-Silver Gate, MT
2.2 2008/12/31 22:19:51 44.509N 110.350W 1.7 62 km (39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.5 2008/12/31 08:05:00 44.514N 110.360W 1.1 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
3.3 2008/12/31 08:02:11 44.523N 110.361W 4.9 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.5 2008/12/31 05:50:01 44.518N 110.368W 2.0 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.1 2008/12/31 05:46:53 44.520N 110.362W 2.0 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.9 2008/12/31 05:42:06 44.519N 110.367W 0.1 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.6 2008/12/31 05:26:56 44.501N 110.385W 2.2 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.4 2008/12/31 05:23:52 44.520N 110.371W 1.0 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.7 2008/12/31 04:52:19 44.503N 110.371W 0.4 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.3 2008/12/31 04:40:04 44.526N 110.368W 2.2 60 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.6 2008/12/31 04:25:24 44.516N 110.376W 1.8 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.4 2008/12/31 04:25:11 44.523N 110.364W 2.2 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.4 2008/12/31 04:22:16 44.520N 110.382W 2.2 59 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
2.7 2008/12/31 04:15:44 44.522N 110.372W 1.2 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.5 2008/12/31 04:12:40 44.516N 110.373W 0.6 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.8 2008/12/31 04:08:59 44.532N 110.381W 0.4 59 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
0.6 2008/12/31 04:08:34 44.527N 110.367W 2.1 60 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
2.4 2008/12/31 04:06:14 44.520N 110.371W 1.2 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.9 2008/12/31 04:05:12 44.532N 110.380W 0.3 59 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.3 2008/12/31 03:53:29 44.520N 110.364W 2.2 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
0.9 2008/12/31 03:52:59 44.504N 110.381W 2.1 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.5 2008/12/31 03:52:23 44.546N 110.394W 0.7 58 km (36 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.9 2008/12/31 03:43:37 44.524N 110.372W 1.5 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
0.9 2008/12/31 03:26:38 44.523N 110.367W 0.0 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.1 2008/12/31 03:26:01 44.532N 110.381W 2.0 59 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.8 2008/12/31 03:23:43 44.530N 110.380W 1.0 59 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.2 2008/12/31 03:23:07 44.529N 110.380W 0.9 59 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.5 2008/12/31 03:21:49 44.521N 110.373W 2.1 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
1.4 2008/12/31 03:16:44 44.527N 110.367W 0.8 60 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
3.6 2008/12/31 02:02:28 44.525N 110.362W 4.3 61 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
3.0 2008/12/31 01:58:11 44.527N 110.369W 1.3 60 km (37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
3.3 2008/12/29 12:14:49 44.521N 110.369W 1.8 60 km (38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT

What to Do When A Mob Threatens?

Well, if you were a sea captain thinking of mutineers, or a bank guard worried about a mob breaking in, AND you lived in the early 1800s this type of weapon would be just the ticket.  There are many varieties of so-called "Duckfoot" guns, all with multiple barrels designed to be fired at once.  This one has eight barrels, a barbed handle and a blade to help with any follow-on hand-to-hand fighting that may ensure discharging the weapon.  It would have to be a pretty resolute mob, though, after facing down eight .45 caliber lead balls fired at them...


Combing the Map


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Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 2


The scale on this is eight miles on a side, and the diagram is courtesy of a discussion board member called Shirakawa.  This represents the magnitude, depth and location of the earthquakes in this series of quakes beneath the North end of Yellowstone Lake.

A correction of an earlier comment on hydrothermal explosions : "an explosion 13,800 years ago left a 5 kilometer diameter crater at Mary Bay on the edge of Yellowstone Lake (located in the center of the caldera)." --FEMA Region VIII statement issued today.

Updated Map and listing of quakes at Yellowstone this week (incomplete as there are so many quakes that seismologist review is taking up to a day): Recent Yellowstone Quakes

The swarm has reintensified today after a slight drop in activity yesterday.  It is interesting to note that the quakes continue to occur in the area of Yellowstone Lake beneath the dome on the lake's floor, and in the vicinity of most of the hydrothermal explosions on record.  Like most people watching this interesting swarm, I'd love to hear from the U of U director, even if they aren't clear about what the quakes mean, to get an idea of what they are thinking.  Still, I guess they cannot speculate too much, as spooking people would be a bad thing to do.  So, we wait, watch and will see...

A Bad Influence

From F minus Website

This online comic is always funny. 

Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm Update


Illustration of a Yellowstone eruption from the Discovery Channel/BBC co-production 'Supervolcano'.

The small earthquakes are continuing today in the caldera at Yellowstone National Park, with a couple of mid-sized events near and above 3:

Recent Quake List 

Yellowstone Quake Map

It is clear that no one is sure what, if any larger significance these events will have, in terms of a volcanic or hydrothermal event, but geophysicists and geologists are keeping close watch.  FEMA has announced that it is monitoring the events.  Why?  Well, it is possible that the tremors are a precursor to an eruption, though the odds are low, as such events occur only every 600,000 years, or so.  Still, it has been approximately 640,000 years since the last supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone, and even events that happen only rarely all happen at a precise moment in time. 

Another possibility, and one more likely, it appears, is for a hydrothermal explosion.  This occurs much more frequently and can vary widely in size.  A hydrothermal explosion occurs when superheated water finds it's way to the surface and the reduced pressure creates an explosive release.  There are ten of these craters at Yellowstone, and they vary widely in size.  Debris can be thrown hundreds of feet to tens of miles in such explosions.  It is interesting to note that the cluster of small quakes now underway in Yellowstone are all in an area at the Northern end of Yellowstone Lake, the same area where most of the hydrothermal explosions in the Park have occurred over time (look for the stars in this map):

Yellowstone Volcanic Events Map

Streaming video of Old Faithful: Old Faithful Webcam Streaming Live

So, just what kind of event is about to happen, if any?  Most people's gut reaction is probably right - that is, to have a passing thought about cataclysm, think twice about going for a snowmobile run around Yellowstone Lake, and go on with a regular day.  Without 'showing your work' as math teachers like to say, this thought process reflects complex math and risk assessment.  That is, it gives weight to each of the several possibilities approximately according to their likely occurrence. 

The story has begun to get press- after four days - worldwide, but still the only comments from Dr. Smith for the record are from Monday morning, and tell us that this is unusual and we don't know what it may indicate.

If you're interested in the seismograph images for the area: University of Utah Seismograph Webcorders

If you're interested in a visual interpretation of the quake swarm check out:  Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm December 2008

If you'd like to investigate the dome-building activity go here: Yellowstone ground deformation data

Additional links:

Volcanic Locations near Yellowstone Lake

US News Article with discussion of supervolcano intensity scale

Google Blog Search for Yellowstone Quake Swarm

Google News Search

Geologic History of Yellowstone and Direction of North American Plate Movement

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Can you Blame Her?


I like this comic strip, which can be found at

Snapshots daily cartoons

How to Ensure a Snow Day at School


And how much trouble we're in is determined by whether the faculty was inside at the time, or outside...

barricading the school

Real Life and Flip Flopping

From Bizzaro by Dan Piraro, a comic I almost always crack up out loud when reading:

Read the strip and blog at

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Moses, Cut the Crap!


If you know the author, please let me know and I'll credit him. 

Not the Colonel!

These are two great examples of a very funny comic by Doug Bratton and found at


I DO NOT Have a Weight Problem




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Is it Hard for you to Wake up?


If you know the author is this bit, please tell me and I'll credit them.

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There is Something Worse...



If you know who produced this comic, please let me know and I'll credit them.  Very funny, eh? 

Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm

Over the past several days, something that may just be very unusual has been occurring in ancient caldera in Yellowstone National Park.  Over 250 micro earthquakes have occurred during that brief time, and while earthquake swarms are not uncommon in themselves, either at Yellowstone or other volcanoes, several aspects of this current swarm make it unusual, and therefore very interesting.

First, the many small earthquakes are not only occurring rapidly, but they are occurring in a very small area, less than one kilometer across.  They are also happening in Yellowstone lake just below, and immediately around the location of a dome on the floor of the lake - discovered only recently. 

Second, the quakes are generally very shallow.  Several have been less than .3 kilometers from the surface, and the average depth is about 2.5 kilometers, which places them at about the same depth as the magma chamber that drives the geothermal engine at Yellowstone, fueling the geysers.

Third, the quakes are occurring within the caldera itself, while the smaller swarms of 1985, 1995 and 2004 all occurred outside the caldera, nearer to Hebgen lake.  It is very likely that the quakes are related to magma movement through the geophysical system at Yellowstone, but it seems to be unclear to scientists at this time whether the quakes are a precursor to some sort of eruption, or just a particularly active set of routine quakes.  said Robert Smith, a professor of geophysics at the University of Utah said that "they're certainly not normal", and added that "we might be seeing something precursory. "

In the past couple of years seismologists have inched closer to developing a predictive technique to allow warnings before eruptions.  This technique was used to prevent loss of life in the eruption of Popocatepetl in 2000.  It indicates that sometimes harmonic tremors and quake swarms can predict volcanic eruptions. 

Likely the swarms at Yellowstone are just a larger than usual magma movement event, and no eruption is imminent.  At least, we'd best hope so, because the world's largest supervolcano would almost certainly cause immeasurable destruction both in the area within 100 miles and indeed around the world.  Some links to follow the action:

Map showing earthquakes




Sunday, December 28, 2008

Edible Dirt


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If you haven't seen Matt Rosemier's comic Edible Dirt, you should check it out today!

Stop, Drop and Roll


This Modern Life

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.