Thursday, February 28, 2008

Projecting the Pacific Northwest's next major earthquake

As reported in the February 28, 2008, issue of Science Daily:

Virtual Mega-Quake Shows Earthquake Could Inflict Major Damage On Pacific Northwest U.S.

Seismic chartOn January 26, 1700, at about 9 p.m. local time, the Juan de Fuca plate beneath the ocean in the Pacific Northwest suddenly moved, slipping some 60 feet eastward beneath the North American plate in a monster quake of approximately magnitude 9, setting in motion large tsunamis that struck the coast of North America and traveled to the shores of Japan.

Since then, the earth beneath the region — which includes the cities of Vancouver, Seattle and Portland — has been relatively quiet. But scientists believe that earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 8, so-called “megathrust events,” occur along this fault on average every 400 to 500 years.

To help prepare for the next megathrust earthquake, a team of researchers led by seismologist Kim Olsen of San Diego State University (SDSU) used a supercomputer-powered “virtual earthquake” program to calculate for the first time realistic three-dimensional simulations that describe the possible impacts of megathrust quakes on the Pacific Northwest region. . . .

What the scientists learned from this simulation is not reassuring, . . . particularly for residents of downtown Seattle. . . .

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