Scientists: Huge NW quake will strike sooner

Scientists: Huge NW quake will strike sooner

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by Keely Chalmers, KGW staff

kgw.com

Posted on March 16, 2011 at 4:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 17 at 12:56 PM

Since the Japan quake hit we've been hearing that we here in the Pacific Northwest will likely get one just like it.

Of course the big question is, when?

Oregon Department of Geology's chief scientist Ian Madin has been studying the history of quakes that have rocked the Pacific Northwest.

By researching undersea landslides off the coast, Madin and a team of scientists have put together a new time-line showing the frequency of quakes over the last 10,000 years.

"We are in certainly within the window when another great earthquake could occur and for the smaller ones on the south coast we're leaning out the window," said Madin.

"It could be tomorrow, it could be 50 years from now," said OSU marine geologist Chris Goldfinger.

Goldfinger was in Japan when the quake hit. He's spent years studying the Cascadia Subduction Zone which lies about 75 miles off the Oregon coast.

Scientists have long thought the fault produces a major quake about every 500 years, but Goldfinger says his findings show it happens every 250 years. That means there's now a 37 percent chance a quake will strike within the next 50 years.

"That puts different perspective on the whole thing in terms of ... I think it means we should probably ramp our efforts for preparedness," said Goldfinger.

Some researchers believe Japan’s quake was part of a cluster of quakes that have been happening around the Pacific Ocean and that the West Coast is the next to go. However Madin says there's no connection.

"It’s easy for people to pull patterns out of these kinds of events, but there’s no scientific basis for it," said Madin.

Both Madin and Goldfinger say the quake we get here will be a "twin" of the one that happened in Japan. They also point out Japan was a lot more prepared and that it's crucial we start preparing now.

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