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Chelyabinsk Seismic

1 April 2022

A paper on the seismic effects of the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor explosion in the atmosphere has been published in Seismological Research Letters volume 84 number 6. Impacts with our planet cause seismic shaking, we are told. Catastrophic ground motion, even over long distances, can be generated by infrequent hypersonic collisions with large asteroids or comets. Fortunately, the atmosphere acts as a shield so that smaller objects, such as meteors, explode high in the sky – or vapourise. In most instances ground shaking is triggered by the atmospheric shock wave of a meteor exploding. Not by the impact of the bits and pieces that find their way to the surface of the earth but by the blast and shock wave. This sort of thing is best seen in the recent meteor explosion that destroyed towns and cities on the opposite bank of the Jordan river to Jericho. However, the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded too high in the atmosphere to have such an effect on the surface. Most of the energy involved was dissipated in the upper atmosphere.

A strong shock wave can be generated by explosive fragmentation – in one, or several, airbursts, as a large object is broken up in the atmosphere. On 15th February 2013 a large meteor exploded in the sky above Chelyabinsk in Russia, and produced a powerful shock wave, that caused damage to 7300 buildings. Mainly glass and superficial rather than structural damage. The fragments that landed on the surface hit the ground at subsonic terminal velocity and did not cause seismic shaking – but it was detectable. Therefore the ground shaking had another source. The shock wave produced remarkable ground motion. Seismic surface waves were observed over distances of 4000 km. Modelling indicates it was caused by the terminal airburst of the meteor. The ground shaking was dominated by Rayleigh waves. The explosion, or airburst, was manifested by the peak brightness of the flare produced, and reproduced on dash cams and surveillance cameras and videos. It took place in the stratosphere, at an altitude of 23 km above the surface. We are told that had it occurred at somewhat lower altitude its shock wave would have been much more dramatic as far as surface buildings and people were concerned. See also Tauzinetal, 2013, and Le Pichon, 2013.

It seems this paper may suggest the mechanism behind the EB, MB, and LB destruction levels endemic across the Aegean, Anatolia, the Levant and Mesopotamia at 5000 years ago, 4300 years ago, 36oo years ago, and 3200 years ago [conventional dates], as outlined by French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer in his book, ‘Stratigraphie Comparie‘ back in 1948.  In those days the idea of an earthquake storm over such a wide area, even if the line of destruction followed plate boundaries, was regarded as impossible, and the book cost him his career. SIS published an article based on Schaeffer’s book, which was in French, quite a few years ago. Geoffrey Gammon was the author, a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Defence. Earthquake storms were simply regarded as impossible and Schaeffer was more or less laughed out of his position as a senior archaeologist. Amos Nur wrote an article for the proceedings of the 1997 SIS Cambridge Conference at Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge. However, the above article describes just how that can have occurred. It is an important milestone in our perception of the historical past and how catastrophism has been a feature of even the fairly recent time period. A large meteor, or a pulse of small meteors, travelling on a trajectory that passed over Iran, northern Mesopotamia, and the Levant, proceeding westwards towards the Aegean or North Africa, rupturing the ground and turning mud brick cities and towns into rubble heaps, or ruin mounds. These still litter the Near East. Some were rebuilt to live another day. Others were abandoned forever. The ground shaking excited the fault lines and plate boundaries. Might Schaeffer be vindicated, rather belatedly. You can read sections of his book at https://q-mag.org/reading-from-claude-schaeffers-stratigraphie-comparee.html … see also https://wiki.seg.org/wiki/Amos_Nur

and see https://classics.stanford.edu/events/amos-nur-stanford-earthquakes-and-archaeology-catastrophic-end-bronze-age-1200-bc

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