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« Since the US Media is Embargoing the Fetal Organ Sales Story, Here's the French Version | Main | Major Garrett Asks Obama a Pointed Question, So DNC Media Itself Rushes to Denounce Him as "Disrespectful" »
July 15, 2015

The Big One: Pacific Northwest, Long Overdue for Massive Quake, Could See Portland and Seattle Swept from the Earth Like So Many Obama Negotiating Points with Iran

The San Andreas faultline, they say, is something amateurs worry about. It's capped at a maximum 8.2 Richter quake when it goes-- big, but not apocalyptic.

The Cascadia subduction zone (where one plate slips beneath, or "subducts," under another as the plates move over the earth) is the one the pros worry about.

In the end, the magnitude-9.0 Tohokuearthquake and subsequent tsunami killed more than eighteen thousand people, devastated northeast Japan, triggered the meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, and cost an estimated two hundred and twenty billion dollars. The shaking earlier in the week turned out to be the foreshocks of the largest earthquake in the nation’s recorded history. But for Chris Goldfinger, a paleoseismologist at Oregon State University and one of the world's leading experts on a little-known fault line, the main quake was itself a kind of foreshock: a preview of another earthquake still to come....

Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada....

Under pressure from Juan de Fuca, the stuck edge of North America is bulging upward and compressing eastward, at the rate of, respectively, three to four millimetres and thirty to forty millimetres a year. It can do so for quite some time, because, as continent stuff goes, it is young, made of rock that is still relatively elastic. (Rocks, like us, get stiffer as they age.) But it cannot do so indefinitely. There is a backstop--the craton, that ancient unbudgeable mass at the center of the continent--and, sooner or later, North America will rebound like a spring. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6. That’s the big one. If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one...

When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west--losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater....The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, "Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast."

That's too bad, but you know, I always try to be a glass-half-full kind of guy.


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posted by Ace at 03:41 PM

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