This Day in Geology [9/2/09]

A couple notable
global geologic events making headlines today…and why we should care about them
as geographers



Earthquake in Indonesia
An earthquake shook the island
of Java, Indonesia, at 2:55pm local time.
[Review your map of world time zones: Jakarta,
Indonesia, is
11 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time–in the westernmost of three Indonesian
time zones]. The most recent NY Times update cited 33 fatalities coming from
early reports. The earthquake registered 7.0 on the Richter scale, according to
the U.S. Geological Survey.

 Indonesia Fact Sheet

— Indonesia
is a nation of many islands–over 17,000!

–Several of these islands are shared with other nations.
The famous island of Borneo, for instance, is made up of the Indonesian
region of Kalimantan, as well as part of Malaysia. The island
of New Guinea is shared with Papua New Guinea.

–The capital of Indonesia,
Jakarta, is situated on the island of Java,
where the earthquake struck. Java is the most populous island in the world [2005 data].

is the 4th most populous country in the world–after China, India,
and the U.S.

–A majority of Indonesians identify as Muslim–over
85%–making Indonesia
the world’s most populous Muslim country.

–Some of Indonesia’s
most prolific exports are coffee, tea, rubber and rice.

Why geographers care
about the quake:

Natural disasters are prime examples of human-environment
interactions. Communities in areas prone to natural disasters, such as the seismic
Pacific Ring of Fire where Indonesia
finds itself, must prepare for the inevitability of such events–socially,
economically, architecturally, and in other important ways. Did you know that Indonesia has
been struck by 29 quakes of magnitude 6.3 or higher in the last 5 years since
the devastating 9.1 behemoth of December, 2004? Increasingly, governments,
corporations, and other groups are using geographic tools like GIS to prepare
for and respond to natural disasters.

New oil field discovered
in Gulf of Mexico

The British oil company BP claims to have discovered an oil
field deep in the Gulf of Mexico that it is
describing as “giant.” Read full stories in the NY Times and National
Public Radio to learn more.

Why geographers care:

Geographic Technology

Oil companies
like BP are using sophisticated new technologies to identify new fossil fuel reserves,
including GIS and advanced 3-D imaging.

Environmental Risk Factors
–Extracting elusive reserves such as this, located at a
depth greater than the height of Mt.
Everest, will pose
significant technological challenges due to extremes of heat and pressure, and will likely entail substantial risks
to the surrounding environment.

–Environmental risk factors are especially dramatic in the Gulf of Mexico, plagued annually by strong hurricanes.
Last year, hurricanes Ike and Gustav halted production in the Gulf and damaged
oil wells–damaged wells can lead to ocean water contamination.

–New discoveries of fossil fuel reserves will likely impact investment in
renewable energy technologies–potentially decreasing such investments.

 Geopolitical Economics
The quest for
domestic fossil fuel sources is part of an effort to gain energy independence
from the tumultuous Middle East, an important
national security priority.

–In addition to impacting energy and national security, the
new reserve could ultimately affect local and global energy prices and other
aspects of the world economy.

Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World

Image courtesy Central Intelligence Agency.

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