Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Canada Science

Pacific Northwest At Risk For Mega-Earthquake 457

Posted by kdawson
from the whole-lotta-shakin' dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Science Daily Headlines reports on research by Oregon State University marine geologist Chris Goldfinger showing that earthquakes of magnitude 8.2 (or higher) have occurred 41 times during the past 10,000 years in the Pacific Northwest. By extrapolation, there is a 37% chance of another major earthquake in the area in the next 50 years that could exceed the power of recent seismic events in Chile and Haiti. If a magnitude-9 quake does strike the Cascadia Subduction Zone, extending from northern Vancouver Island to northern California, the ground could shake for several minutes, highways could be torn to pieces, bridges might collapse, and buildings would be damaged or even crumble. If the epicenter is just offshore, coastal residents could have as little as 15 minutes of warning before a tsunami could strike. 'It is not a question of if a major earthquake will strike,' says Goldfinger, 'it is a matter of when. And the "when" is looking like it may not be that far in the future.'" Read below for more.

The last major earthquake to hit the Cascadia Subduction Zone was in January 1700. Scientists are aware of the impact because of written records from Japan documenting the damage caused by the ensuing tsunami, which crested across the Pacific at about 5 meters (15 feet). Knowledge about what happened in Oregon and Washington is more speculative, but the consensus — gleaned from studies of coastal estuaries, land formations, and river channels — is that the physical alteration to the coast was stunning. The outer coastal regions subsided and drowned coastal marshlands and forests, which were subsequently covered with younger sediments. "Perhaps more striking than the probability numbers is that we ... have already gone longer without an earthquake than 75% of the known times between earthquakes in the last 10,000 years," says Goldfinger. "And 50 years from now, that number will rise to 85 percent."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Pacific Northwest At Risk For Mega-Earthquake

Comments Filter:
  • by sapphire wyvern (1153271) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:18AM (#32346838)

    Seriously? A man named Goldfinger is threatening the Pacific Northwest with tidal waves and earthquakes?

    Well, at least MI5 will save us...

  • by Bicx (1042846)
    ... why I'm glad I don't live in California.
    • by rhsanborn (773855) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:23AM (#32346900)
      Because everywhere else in the US doesn't have other natural disasters. There aren't wildfires in the west, tornadoes in the mid-west, hurricanes in the south, blizzards, snow storms, and ice storms in the north, flooding along the Mississippi...
      • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:28AM (#32346934) Journal

        Wha? There are blizzards, snow storms, ice storms, hail and excessive temperature and pressure changes in the midwest (which lead to tornadoes).

        no need to make it sound like all they have is tornadoes. Tornadoes just hit the trailer parks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mcgrew (92797) *

          Tornadoes just hit the trailer parks.

          I was in a tornado [slashdot.org]. The tree behind the apartment I was living in looked like a weed someone had stomped on. There were trees with five foot diameter trunks uprooted; steel girders twisted, splinters driven into concrete blocks. The walk-in cooler at a bar down the street was ripped from the building. But the trailer park down the street was completely destroyed; it's a vacant lot now. Miraculously, nobody was seriously hurt!

          This (central Illinois) may be the only place

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        Because everywhere else in the US doesn't have other natural disasters. There aren't wildfires in the west, tornadoes in the mid-west, hurricanes in the south, blizzards, snow storms, and ice storms in the north, flooding along the Mississippi...

        Dear God! I had to delete three paragraphs of flamebait!

        It's just too easy to continue that quote.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        if you consider snow to be a natural disaster then you are probably from Atlanta
        • by Zantac69 (1331461)
          I always smile when we get these "snow storms" in Atlanta - but I have to get to the store before they sell out of beer!
        • by Trepidity (597)

          I was in Atlanta when freezing rain was predicted once, and the city's response was to: park ambulances near the overpasses likely to freeze, so they'd be prepositioned to cart off the people injured in the accidents that would likely result. Seems salt trucks were not available in the region.

      • by Bicx (1042846) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:33AM (#32346974)
        True, but natural disasters aren't the only reason I'm glad I don't live in California. Imploding economy, poor leadership, overbearing laws, and similar issues are others.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          True, but natural disasters aren't the only reason I'm glad I don't live in California. Imploding economy, poor leadership, overbearing laws, and similar issues are others.

          Name a state without the same problems, and you won't be talking about the USA.

          • by Known Nutter (988758) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:29AM (#32347622)

            Arizona! Arizona doesn't have any overbearing laws.

          • by cyn1c77 (928549)

            True, but natural disasters aren't the only reason I'm glad I don't live in California. Imploding economy, poor leadership, overbearing laws, and similar issues are others.

            Name a state without the same problems, and you won't be talking about the USA.

            Alaska only has one of the three.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by FTWinston (1332785)

        Yet another reason ... why I'm glad I don't live in the USA.

        Fixed that for the GP. I mean, seriously. Is there a form of natural disaster you guys aren't under constant threat of?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zantac69 (1331461)
          Socialism?

          Oh wait...
        • by plover (150551) *

          Yet another reason ... why I'm glad I don't live in the USA.

          Fixed that for the GP. I mean, seriously. Is there a form of natural disaster you guys aren't under constant threat of?

          Hey, reminding us of that constantly is the job of politicians facing elections, not slashdot.

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        I live in Maryland, about 30 minutes outside of DC, and pretty much nothing happens here. Granted, we sometimes get the freak snowstorm (like Feb's Snowmegeddon), or sometimes get the tail end of tropical storms, but for the most part, the DC/Metro area doesn't have to worry about anything like that.

        Oh wait....DC...never mind, we have our own brand of disaster to worry about -_-;;

        • by GigsVT (208848)

          Yeah, here in Virginia and the area around here, we don't get much in the way of natural disasters.

          A little flooding if you are stupid enough to build in a flood area, the occasional tornado that usually doesn't get very far before the mountains and trees break it up. etc.

        • by plover (150551) *

          Are you kidding? 99 degree weather with 99% humidity is a freakin' disaster in my book.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rwa2 (4391) *

          Yes! The DC/Metro area is great! All the seasons! Free museums! Lots of jobs (in administrative overhead)! You really want to move here! You could live in my condo by a Metro station!

          I for one, am in favor of Pacific-Northwest fearmongering, no one really wants to live there!

          / Been trying to relocate to the Pacific Northwest for quite a few years now
          // Have a feeling a lot of this fearmongering is encouraged by residents who don't want others to move in and bespoil it :-P
          /// Says something about th

          • by Pojut (1027544)

            I've lived here my whole life (lived in Montgomery Village until I was 6, then Olney, then lived in Germantown, then Gaithersburg, now downtown Rockville), and I love it around here...but when we leave the area in a few years, I certainly won't miss the traffic, overcrowding, or asshole drivers. I really miss how this area used to be...hell, Olney, my hometown, had only 7500 residents in it when my parents moved in there almost 20 years ago (I'm 26). Now, Olney has close to 40,000 people...and the city li

      • >>>Because everywhere else in the US doesn't have other natural disasters.

        Not compared to California. The worst "disaster" we have here (northeast) is 3 feet of snow, and all you have to do is wait for it to melt off the roads (usually 2 days or less). ..... But if your roof falls down on you, or a tidal wave buries you under 2 stories of water..... well that's it.

      • ..Mega-Sunami from the Canary Islands, Yellowstone Supervolcano, San-Andreas fault

        Nothing to worry about really ....

      • by BigT (70780) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:15AM (#32348196)

        I'd rather have earthquakes than tornadoes, hurricanes, or flooding. With an earthquake, at least all of your stuff is in the hole that used to be your house, rather than scattered around the county.

        Of course, the latest fear-mongering here in the Pacific North-wet is that if the Cascadia Subduction Zone rips open, it could light off Mt. Rainier and other cascade volcanoes. Pyroclastic flows, lahars, and ash, oh my!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by EricX2 (670266)

      FYI: California isn't in the Pacific Northwest.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ... why I'm glad I don't live in California.

      Here's a list of the earthquakes for the last 7 days [usgs.gov]. California is not the only place to be concerned about.

    • Um, California isn't part of the Pacific Northwest. That's Washington and Oregon.

    • by dacarr (562277) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:21AM (#32348264) Homepage Journal
      Name a state that does not have some sort of periodic inhospitable condition, including natural disasters.

      Besides, keep in mind that they said "Pacific Northwest". As in Seattle. And they note it's the Cascadia zone, which extends to Canada. And, by coincidence, northern California. This is pretty much along the western states.

      Frankly, having grown up in California and now living in Seattle, I can deal with earthquakes - most of what they cause tends to be very mild widespread wide-scatter (emphasis on scatter) panic.

      I'd rather live on the west coast than in, say, Pella Iowa. Not only are there twisters, but there is also little to do unless you're a dairy farmer. (Incidentally, I left California for another problem that isn't so much a disaster: little to no opportunity for someone of my skills.)

  • Washington? (Score:5, Funny)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:20AM (#32346862) Homepage Journal

    Hey, Microsoft, arrrreee youuuuu ready to ruuuuuuuummmmbllle!!!!!!!

  • Oblig. xkcd (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    By extrapolation

    http://xkcd.com/605/ [xkcd.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, either you or the moderators misunderstood that strip, though (my guess is that it's the mods). The point isn't that all extrapolation is bad, flimsy or invalid; it's just that not all naive extrapolations are automatically valid.

      It's rather like with correlation and causation, too. Sure, correlation doesn't imply causation, but that doesn't mean that when there is correlation, there NEVER is causation (also an unfortunately all too common Slashdot meme that gets employed whenever an article causes co

  • And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s31523 (926314) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:24AM (#32346910)
    This information is great and all, but now what? Sure, the governments could be responsible and dust off the ol' disaster plans and have more frequent drills, but honestly, the day that the big one (earthquake, or, earthquake plus tidal wave) hits, the situation is going to be FUBAR no matter what people do. Sure, some preparedness will result in minor differences in life loss, etc. but in the grand scheme of things the same net effect will occur: total destruction. Therefore, the government, the people, anyone will do nothing but scoff at the prediction, until it happens, and then will cry "why didn't anyone tell me about this or do anything".
    • There is a lot of preparation that could help. Have dry food. Have water for a few days. Be prepared to move out of the area for a few days until water and electricity are available again.

      Unfortunately, those who predict an earthquake don't give much guidance for preparation. It would be useful to know, for example, what an earthquake is likely to do to a wooden house held together by nails.

      The subduction zone is off the coast. How would an earthquake there affect Portland, Oregon, which is 80 miles i
      • by plover (150551) * on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:19AM (#32347452) Homepage Journal

        The subduction zone is off the coast. How would an earthquake there affect Portland, Oregon, which is 80 miles inland?

        Create a lot of new beachfront property?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Unfortunately, those who predict an earthquake don't give much guidance for preparation. It would be useful to know, for example, what an earthquake is likely to do to a wooden house held together by nails.

        If you live in the Pacific Northwest, and you don't know what an earthquake does to a wooden house held together by nails and metal straps (let's be accurate here, those metal tie plates are mandated by code in earthquake country) then you deserve to die in an earthquake. With that said, the house I live in is floppy and sloppy. Seriously considering a shipping container home.

        • Re:Preparation (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MachineShedFred (621896) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:20AM (#32348258) Journal

          If you live in the Pacific Northwest, there's a good chance that your house *is* built to at least some earthquake code. My house was built in 1960, has metal tie plates, and is bolted to the foundation, and not as a retrofit.

          This isn't exactly new knowledge that earthquakes happen close to active volcanos, you know.

    • Re:And... (Score:4, Informative)

      by MagikSlinger (259969) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @11:20AM (#32349028) Homepage Journal

      Governments in the area have been reacting to this news for a couple decades. In BC, we're spending over a billion dollars seismically upgrading critical bridges and making sure the older schools and hospitals don't colapse on their occupants. They've begun emergency preparedness drills, etc.

      The problem is: at 8+ magintude, all plans go to crap...

      • Re:And... (Score:5, Informative)

        by SpaceMika (867804) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:47PM (#32350162)
        The problem is: at 8+ magintude, all plans go to crap...

        Actually, no. Vancouver is located near a triple-plate junction, and is susceptible to deep magnitude 9 subduction quakes with minimal surface shaking (akin to Chile), or shallower magnitude 7s with a lot of surface shaking. Locally, a magnitude 7 is a lot more problematic, although a magnitude 9 would put everyone else on the rim on tsunami-watch.

        Richmond and the unconsolidated saturated sediments they live on below sea water behind a dyke is pretty much out of luck in prolonged shaking, as the liquefaction means they'll discover they built on oatmeal. The only way to earthquake-proof that is to keep Richmond entirely agricultural.

        But for the city proper, it's pretty much set. Vancouver is built on glacier-compressed sediment, and once you've had 2km of ice squishing everything flat, as far as earthquakes are concerned, it's pretty much bedrock. The engineered fill around False Creek/Granville Island/the downtown docks are likely to have more problems (honestly, I'm concerned about those nice, huge cranes toppling under a bit of liquefaction, exactly like waterfront in Haiti), but as far as "places with people" go, the biggest danger should be the shower of broken glass in the city core. Even personal preparedness is fairly high: approximately 2,000 students per year pass the intro to disasters course at UBC; I don't have the numbers but I'd guess at least a few hundred take the equivalent course at SFU.

        Vancouver Island protects the mainland from tsunami; the only real tsunami-danger east of the island is locally in the fjords if the earthquake triggers a landslide (likely things will fail; not so likely anything big enough will go in any one place to really cause a threatening seche). As for the west coast of the island, this past year's Chile-warning was a good practice run. The last-mile notification is still bumpy, but getting better.

        Victoria (on the south tip of Vancouver Island) worries me more -- the current subduction has buckled the island up by approximately 15m, which is an awful lot to deal with if it all slips at once. This is made more complicated by the large proportion of the elderly (Victoria is a major retirement destination in Canada), who have lowered resiliency in emergencies.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:24AM (#32346914)
    Cheking out Chris Goldfinger's credentials this will be big, they will be rocking as far away as the Caribbean [wikipedia.org].
  • Ob (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:30AM (#32346946) Homepage Journal

    Clearly it's BP's fault. Those evil Belgians!

    • by deKernel (65640)

      What do you expect when you smell like cabbage!

    • Hmmm... Owns large chunks of what was Standard Oil, Run by a Swede ...Started as AngloArabian Oil in Iran... ...Belgian?

  • If they can hang on 'til the end of 2012, the problem will go away.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      That depends on how you see it.

      How far from the predicted epicenter lived the guys who believed in the 2012 thing?

      Maybe some guys came from the north and, when asked about the reasons for their trip they just said "We predicted a 37% chance of the the earth opening and eating our village in about 1000 years, so we decided to move".

  • Same old thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kaychoro (1340087) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @08:44AM (#32347062)
    I've lived south of Seattle for 30 years, and predictions like these have been coming for years and years. I've personally felt 2 earthquakes, and seen dust from Mt. Saint Helens. While this doesn't minimize the likelihood of another big earthquake, I just question the reason this is news - especially on /.
    • by tgd (2822)

      I suspect it amounts to the fact that nothing gets the slashbot's panties wet like the possibility of something wiping out Microsoft.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:02AM (#32347198) Journal

    I'm curious what the impact of earthquakes in/around the NW would have on the Yellowstone Caldera.
    Granted, it sounds like the earthquakes in the NW are orders of magnitude more frequent (and less catastrophic) than the eruption of the Yellowstone formation, but it seems likely that one might impact the other, being that they're only what, about 700mi apart?

  • Old news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by psyque (1234612) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:05AM (#32347222)
    I've lived in British Columbia for 28 years and this is old news. They've been measuring the distance and stress on the plates between Vancouver and Vancouver Island for decades. Most of us are well aware that at any time we could get hit with an earthquake of biblical proportions.
  • Pacific NorthWest? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bigrockpeltr (1752472) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:06AM (#32347240)
    i guess only Americans would understand that...

    For the rest of the world they are referring to the North Eastern Pacific.

  • It the blackhawks after they beat Nashville it got flooded Vancouver is ok for now. But now is SJ next???

  • Will California become it's own nation after it breaks off from the usa? It if becomes a island?

  • 37% (Score:4, Funny)

    by mapkinase (958129) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:39AM (#32347720) Homepage Journal

    37%? 37% even? Are you sure it's not 37.367%?

    Honestly, guys.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by st_adamin (1029910)
      Exactly. I won't believe any made up statistic unless it is 9 digits of precision.
  • by smchris (464899) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @09:56AM (#32347986)

    Actually, there was a pretty interesting BBC Horizon show on this a while back. Possibly the origin of the Thunderbird legend in Native American mythology and they traced a likely quake to a Tsunami that caused flooding in Japan according to an existing written record that is well dated. Aside from coastal flooding the question was whether the modern buildings would bend or break. Show left it with, "it'll be an interesting test."

  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @10:26AM (#32348352) Homepage Journal
    Really? There could be a huge earthquake capable of swallowing up the Microsoft headquarters into the ground?

    Oh please please please please please let there be an earthquake!
  • by Kickassthegreat (654117) on Wednesday May 26, 2010 @12:21PM (#32349816)
    As a native to the Pacific Northwest, this is something you are constantly aware of. Every time there is a major earthquake or tsunami, the local news posts stories about how the "Big one" is due to hit in the next 50 years. Every time a volcanic eruption becomes major news, we get reports about how Mount Rainer is going to erupt and bury my hometown. I was born a year after our last major volcanic eruption, so you could say that this has been something I have been aware of my entire life.

    More interesting than when the big one is going to hit is how well we are setup to handle it when it does. I was in a building rated only for a 7.0 Ricter magnitude quake during our last major quake (which measured 6.8), and there were major fears that the building was going to collapse either during or just after the quake. Luckily for me, it weathered the quake with only minor damage.

    However, after the Chile quake last year, I heard a report from our local NPR affiliate comparing the infrastructure of the NW with the infrastructure of Chile (our buildings are built to roughly the same standards, and are around the same age), and mentioning that the state governments up here were taking interest in learning from the lessons of that quake to prepare better for our next big quake.

"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai

Working...