“The next Cascadia earthquake has the potential to be the biggest natural disaster that the United States will have to come to terms with—far bigger than Sandy or even Katrina,” says Benjamin Horton, associate professor and director of the Sea Level Research Laboratory in the department of earth and environmental science at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tiny fossils offer clues to a 1700 earthquake in the Pacific Northwest that was strong enough to cause a tsunami as far away as Japan. Through radiocarbon dating and an analysis of different species’ positions with the cores over time, the researchers were able to piece together a historical picture of the changes in land and sea level along the coastline. The research revealed how much the coast suddenly subsided during the earthquake, which infers how much the tectonic plates moved during the earthquake.
The Cascadia subduction zone is of particular interest to geologists and coastal managers because geological evidence points to recurring seismic activity along the fault line, with intervals between 300 and 500 years. With the last major event occurring in 1700, another earthquake could be on the horizon. A better understanding of how such an event might unfold has the potential to save lives.
Full story at Futurity.
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