Tsunami safe?

Oregon State professor Scott Ashford visited Chile after its February 2010 earthquake.

We’re overdue. If the Cascadia subduction zone behaves as it has in the past, an 8.0 to 8.5 earthquake and a resulting tsunami have a good chance of striking the Pacific Northwest in the next 50 years. That’s the take-home message from OSU marine geologist Chris Goldfinger’s studies of offshore debris flows. He has identified up to 38 such events in the last 10,000 years. At the April 2010 meeting of the Seismological Society of America in Portland, Voice of America correspondent Tom Banse talked with Goldfinger and University of Washington emeritus geophysicist Steve Malone about predicting the next Big One.

As science defines what’s at stake, what can we do? Engineers at OSU’s Hinsdale Wave Lab are testing a proposed tsunami evacuation structure for the City of Cannon Beach. Hinsdale engineers previously evaluated the consequences of a tsunami striking Cannon Beach’s neighbor, the City of Seaside. See an Oregon Sea Grant video about how research is improving disaster planning for coastal communities.

The New York Times featured a thoughtful op-ed on earthquake engineering on March 27 by Peter Yanev, author of Peace of Mind in Earthquake Country. And if you really want to delve into the faults under the Pacific Northwest, read OSU emeritus geologist Robert Yeats’ book Living with Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest. You can order it here.