Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Volcan Santiaguito in Eruption

Volcan Santiaguito, on the skirts of Volcan Santa Maria, near Quetzaltenango is in eruption.  The episode began with loud explosions accompanied by ash ejection to a height of 5 kilometers.  Lava is flowing from the vent.

The ash fall is dispersing towards the south, southwest and west.  Visibility in those areas is severely impacted.  Ash is being reported in the city of Retalhuleu, recently damaged by the November 7th earthquake.

Three earthquakes also occurred in the region at around midnight.

Mag: 4.5
Time: 28 Nov 2012 04:31:29 UTC; 27 Nov 2012 22:31:29 near epicenter
Location: 15.505N 92.487W
Depth: 152 km
71 km (44 miles) NNW (342 degrees) of Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico
233 km (145 miles) WNW (295 degrees) of GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala

Mag: 4.8
Time: 28 Nov 2012 05:28:25 UTC; 27 Nov 2012 23:28:25 near epicenter
Location: 12.511N 88.311W
Depth: 40 km
93 km (58 miles) S (171 degrees) of Usulután, Usulután, El Salvador

Mag: 4.5
Time:  28 Nov 2012 06:46:36 UTC, 28 Nov 2012 00:46:36 near epicenter
Location: 12.550N 88.351W
Depth: 42 km
88 km (55 miles) S (174 degrees) of Usulután, Usulután, El Salvador

Thanks to Norm Avila, here's an ash fall forecast map:

 Link to original image HERE

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mayan Calendar Doesn't End on December 20, 2012

August 11, 3114 BC marks the beginning of the current calendric cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar.  The Mayan calendar is comprised of repeating periods that result from the Mayan base-20 positional number system.

The Mayans were the first humans to invent a positional number system like our decimal system—a system based on powers of a number base plus the idea of a numeral that represents zero.  A positional number system must have some way to represent the value zero.  In contrast to our base-10 system, the Mayans chose base-20.  So instead of decimal places Mayan numbers have vigesimal places.  Instead of the decimal system of nine numerals plus zero, Mayan numbers are composed of 19 numerals, plus zero.  In the decimal system, each digit represents a power of ten.  In the Mayan system, each digit represents a power of 20.  A positional number system is a necessity for doing serious mathematics.  Imagine doing even simple addition with a non-positional system like Roman numerals.

Our Gregorian calendar uses decimal numbers for years and a messy system based on the arbitrary values 7, 28, 29, 30, and 31 for weeks and months.  We call the periods of our calendar days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, and millennia.

The Mayan Long Count system is much cleaner.  The periods correspond to vigesimal places of a Long Count date and are named k'in, uinal, tun, k'atun, baktun, piktun, etc., each representing a power of 20 except the the second place, the uinal, which is base-18.  (This results in the 20x18 = 360 day count in the lowest two places to represent the 360 day Mayan year.)  From the third place on up, the count is purely vigesimal.

Mayan Calendar

The Mayans actually used three calendars side-by-side.  The Tzolkin and the Ha'ab calendars are designed to keep track of holidays and astronomical / planting cycles.  Those calendars restart every 52 years and don't concern us here.  The third calendar, the Maya Long Count calendar, counts an unlimited number of days from a specified starting point using a modified base-20 system that accommodates the 360 day Mayan year.  Because this calendar is unlimited, Long Count dates are inscribed in monuments intended to last for a long time.

Now let's connect some of the Mayan Long Count periods with real numbers.  The first vigesimal place, the kin, counts 20 day cycles.  The second place, the uinal, counts base-18.  Together, the first and second places roll over every 360 days, which is the length of the Mayan year, and the count carries into the third digit.  The third digit, tun, counts 20 Mayan years.  The fourth digit, k'atun, counts 20 tuns, or 400 Mayan years, which is 394.25 years on our Gregorian calendar.  It is this 394 year cycle that is going to roll over in December 20, 2012, and the next vigesimal place, the baktun, will increase from 12 to 13.  We are now in the 13th baktun since the start of the Long Count calendar (like saying we're in the 21st century in our calendar).  The next baktun begins on December 21, 2012.

A baktun is a period of 144,000 days or 394.25 Gregorian years. The Classic Period of Mayan history occurred during the 8th and 9th baktuns.  The last day of the 13th baktun occurs on Dec 20, 2012 in the Gregorian calendar, which is on the Mayan Long Count calendar. The 14th baktun begins on (Long Count) or Dec 21, 2010 (Gregorian).

When 20 baktuns are completed (7,885 years from the starting point in 3114 BCE) a new piktun begins and the baktun starts counting again from zero.  The pictun isn't normally written on Long Count dates because it's assumed.  Just like we don't write leading zeros on Gregorian years.  We don't write 000002012, just 2012.  When 20 pictuns are completed, or 157,700 years, a new kalabtun begins. In fact there are two more digits defined beyond these in the Mayan Long Count Calendar, the k'inchiltun and the alautun.  The Mayan Long Count calendar has places already define and named that carry it another 1.2 billion years.  In our calendar we're only named periods out to millennia.  The Mayans had a much longer view of time.  And even after 1.2 billion years have elapsed and the named periods of the Mayan calendar are filled, the calendar still doesn't end.  You just keep adding more digits to the year, the same as we will do when our year passes 9999.

In light of this, the idea that the Mayan calendar ends is especially ridiculous.  The Long Count calendar is defined, with named periods, 1.2 billion years out into the future.  It would make more sense to say that our calendar ends in 9999, since we haven't named any periods beyond the millennium.  But the hoopla about the new baktun (similar to a century on our calendar) makes for lots of book and movie sales.

For a timeline of Guatemalan history, from 15,000 BC to the present, see Guatemala History Timeline.

The Maya Paradise home page displays today's date in all three Mayan calendars: Tzolkin, Ha'ab, and Long Count.  Maya Paradise

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Maya Paradise Web Site Returns After Hiatus

After a hiatus of a few months, the Maya Paradise web site is back with a slightly different domain name.  Come take a look and tell your friends.

Maya Paradise

Sunday, November 11, 2012

M6.5 Aftershock Hits Guatemala

The strongest aftershock recorded so far to the recent M7.4 quake in Guatemala took place at 4:15 PM local time on Sunday, November 11, 2012.  The quake's epicenter was located 30 km (19 miles) WSW of Champerico.  The depth of the hypocenter was 27 km so shaking was fairly strong and was felt in Guatemala City.

The number of deaths attributed to Wednesday's M7.4 quake now stands at 52.  Wednesday's quake was the strongest in Guatemala in 36 years.  It was followed by more than 70 aftershocks.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Quake Causes Death and Destruction in Northwestern Guatemala

The departments of northwestern Guatemala were struck hard by Wednesday's Mag 7.4 quake.  The area around Retalhuleu and San Marcos suffered the most damage with rubble in the streets from collapsed buildings.  Dozens of buildings collapsed, streets are cracked, and at least 48 persons were killed.  The quake was followed by five strong aftershocks.  The search for more casualties continues.

Most of the energy of the quake traveled north and northeast from the epicenter.  Eyewitnesses reported strong shaking in Guatemala City.  The quake was felt 600 miles away in Mexico City where people fled swaying buildings.   Eyewitnesses in Rio Dulce on the Atlantic side of Guatemala, 300 miles to the east of the epicenter, reported that the quake was barely felt in that region.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

M7.4 Quake Strikes off Pacific Shore of Guatemala

A magnitude 7.4 quake struck at 4:35 PM GMT, 24 km south of Champerico, in the sea off the Pacific coast of Guatemala.  The quake was felt strongly over a wide area.  People fled swaying buildings in Guatemala City and as far away as Mexico City.

The area where this quake occurred is seismically very active.  This is a subduction zone where the Cocos Plate is subducting under the North American Plate at the rate of about 80mm per year.  Significant quakes are not unusual in this area.

It is still too soon for reliable damage reports to have come in but initial reports indicate that damage is moderate for a quake of this magnitude.

Below is a shake map for this quake.