Hoax Alert: Cascadia Buoy!

Today there was a bantering about a buoy several hundred miles offshore of Oregon. A website had posted a hoax about how the buoy data suggested that there was movement along the Cascadia subduction zone. These hoaxes happen rather frequently. One of the most famous hoaxsters has an online name that rhymes with munchkins. In addition to my post here, my good friend from southern Oregon shared me this link, where Scott Burns also debunks this hoax.

Here I present some screen shots from this hoax website. I spend more time helping people learn how to tell the difference between credible sources of information and non-credible sources of information on my Fukushima page here. Basically, sometimes it is difficult to really know if a source of information is credible or not, especially if we are not experts in that field. I use the Fukushima fear example and today’s example to debunk these non-credible sources since I am more informed about these topics. I do not provide a link to the ss95 page because I do not want them to make any more money on this hoax. If you do go there, you will find a plethora (thanks Tom H. Leroy, the man with four first names, for the word of the day) of other web pages that are equally annoying and hoaxes. Red flags!

There are many websites that are probably not good sources of information (duh!). When they have crazy names, like superstation95, it is probably a good bet that they are not credible sources of information. Here is a pdf of the ss95 page as I went to press. They edited the page several times since I first saw it this morning. I wonder why (not really, they are cleaning up their misinformation slightly).

Here is the top of this page that is clearly full of misinformation. I will briefly review some of this misinformation. I grabbed these screen shots about 18:50 on 2016.01.18.

There is a statement “the land beneath the ocean has suddenly “sunk”.” The buoy is located several hundred nautical miles west of Astoria. This is quite far from the Cascadia subuction zone (CSZ) and if the CSZ were to deform the sea floor, this buoy would absolutely not observe nor record that.

Another statement, “An ocean data buoy is alerting to an “event”.” These buoys have algorithms that find excursions in the data and identify them as “events” so that a real person can review these data to see if something is happening. The fact that there are “events” only signifies that there is an excursion. I will review this excursion below.

Here is the next part of this ss95 hoax. These are plots from the Buoy web page here. If one clicks on “Data Type” and select “events,” they can choose from the different events. This link already shows the “event” that is plotted below.

The upper panel shows a 5 minute period (the excursion) and the lower panel shows a 5 hour period of time, with the excursion highlit in red. Note the vertical scale on both plots. The upper plot shows a peak-to-trough distance of 6 cm (the units are meters; 2738.72-2738.66 = 6 cm). This would generally be considered a 3 cm wave height. NOT VERY SIGNIFICANT. The lower panel shows that there are many waves before and after the excursion that look to have amplitudes very similar to this excursion. This is because these are all simply typical ocean waves. About 20 minutes after the excursion is another wave that is almost the same size, just before 03 GMT.

They claim that “The [E]arth sunk.” Anyone who does not capitalize the “E” in Earth… well, I am not the capitalization police… but it does not support this source as being credible. Again, this buoy is not located above the CSZ, so could not move due to deformation along the CSZ.

    The claim, “The buoy is too far away from shore to be affected by high/low tide, so where did the four feet of ocean water disappear to?”

  1. This is patently false. I post a great graphic from NOAA below. Tides occur here as much as they do anywhere else (there are places where tides are greater and lesser, but that is not really relevant to debunk their false statement).
  2. Where did they come up with 4′ of water? Oh, the tides. I thought that they were talking about the “event” wave, which only has a much much smaller amplitude. Their hoax web page is really confusing. This should be a red flag.

They state the following:

This means a Tectonic Plate in the Ocean named the “Juan de Fuca Plate” has made a sudden, eastward movement and slipped beneath another Tectonic Plate named the “North American Plate.” This type of event is usually followed by a massive upward movement of the North American Plate causing a very severe earthquake.

This Buoy is over the Juan de Fuca plate. We can give them that. The JDF plate will go eastward during a subduction zone earthquake. Sure. There will be vertical deformation of the sea floor during a CSZ earthquake, just not in the location of the buoy.

Here is a map showing the buoy’s location (station 46404). The largest yellow diamond is the location of the buoy. The Juan de Fuca Ridge is to the west of this Buoy and the CSZ is farrrrr to the east. Remember, this buoy is 230 nautical miles (a nm = 1.852 km, while a mile is 1.6 km) from Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Here is the NOAA tides infographic. Thanks NOAA Twitter Feed!

    If you are concerned about tsunamis, there are only a few things that you need to know.

  1. If you live along the coast and the CSZ earthquake happens, which will generate a tsunami, the ground shaking is your “Natural Warning.” You do not need to wait for anything else to evacuate to high ground for a tsunami evacuation site. You can do it on your own!
  2. If there is a tsunami coming from an earthquake from elsewhere in the Pacific, there will be many different kinds of warnings (from helicopters, to sirens, to email and other media alerts). You can sign up for notifications from NOAA.

For example, here is the screen shot from the NOAA/NWS National Tsunami Warning Center.

Remember, the I-5 is not a geological boundary. There will NOT be a 45′ tall tsunami passing Interstate 5. There will not be a tsunami in Portland. Ground shaking sure, but no tsunami.

It has been hypothesized that subduction zone earthquakes can change the stresses in magma chambers, leading to volcanic eruptions. For example, it has been reasoned (in a peer review journal article) that a volcano erupted in Alaska following the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake. However, the source of heat that leads to the melting of oceanic lithosphere is NOT from the friction along the fault (but from the mantle, sourced from the original Earth and ongoing radioactive decay within the Mantle). This should be another red flag. Also, when this molten rock is beneath the Earth, it is called magma, not lava. More red flags. IF any of the Cascades range volcanoes were to erupt following a CSZ earthquake, we would most likely know about this long before it were to happen.

Category(s): cascadia, College Redwoods, earthquake, education, geology, gorda, HSU, humboldt, pacific, plate tectonics, subduction, tsunami

5 Responses to Hoax Alert: Cascadia Buoy!

  1. thanks for this Jay, love and appreciate your work and your dedication to our science and mental well being.

  2. Hi Jay. If you get this message today (Tuesday) could you give me a call?
    Sandi Doughton
    The Seattle Times

  3. Thank you for saving the obnoxious website as a PDX file so people can see it without having to visit it!

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  1. […] got so many calls and messages from friends that he decided to write a detailed blog post refuting the website’s […]

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