But research in the last 20 years has shown that the Kamchatka Peninsula and Kuril Islands are a seismic and volcanic hotbed, with a potential to trigger tsunamis that pose a risk to the rest of the Pacific Basin.
A magnitude 9 earthquake in that region in 1952 caused significant damage elsewhere on the Pacific Rim, and even less-powerful quakes have had effects throughout the Pacific Basin.
"There's not a large population in the Russian Far East, but it's obviously important to the people who live there. Thousands of people were killed in tsunamis because of the earthquake in 1952. And tsunamis don't stay home," said Jody Bourgeois, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences.
Bourgeois will discuss the seismic and volcanic threats in the Kamchatka-Kurils region Monday (Dec. 3) during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Earthquakes greater than magnitude 8 struck the central Kurils in 2006 and 2007, and both produced large local tsunamis, up to about 50 feet. Though the tsunamis that crossed the Pacific were much smaller, the one from the 2006 quake did more than $10 million in damage at Crescent City, Calif.
In 2009, Sarychev Peak in the Kurils erupted spectacularly, disrupting air traffic over the North Pacific.
Clearly, determining the frequency of such events is important to many people over a broad area, Bourgeois said.
"Let's say you decide to build a nuclear power plant in Crescent City. You have to consider local events, but you also have to consider non-local events, worst-case scenarios, which includes tsunamis coming across the Pacific," she said.
But that is only possible by understanding the nature of the hazards, and the historic record for earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in Kamchatka and the Kurils is relatively short. In addition, because the region was closed off from much of the world for decades, much of the information has started becoming available only recently.
Much has been learned in the last 10 years in the examination of tsunami deposits and other evidence of prehistoric events, Bourgeois said, but more field work in the Kamchatka-Kurils subduction zone is required to get a clearer picture.
"For hazard analysis, you should just assume that a subduction zone can produce a magnitude 9 earthquake," she said. So it is important to "pay attention to the prehistoric record" to know where, and how often, such major events occur.
Bourgeois noted that in the last 25 years research in the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Washington, Oregon, northern California and British Columbia has demonstrated that the historic record does not provide a good characterization of the hazard. It was once assumed the risks in the Northwest were small, but the research has shown that, before there were any written records, Cascadia produced at least one magnitude 9 earthquake and a tsunami that struck Japan.
Alaska's Aleutian Islands and the Komandorsky Islands, an extension of the Aleutians controlled by Russia, are another source of seismic and volcanic activity that need to be evaluated for their potential risk beyond what is known from the historical record.
"The Aleutians are under-studied," Bourgeois said. "The work in the Russian Far East is kind of a template for the Aleutians."
Ideally, a dedicated boat could ferry researchers to a number of islands in the Aleutian chain, similar to how Bourgeois and other scientists from the United States, Japan and Russia have carried out a detailed research project in the Kuril Islands in the last decade.
"The problem is that during the (research) field season, boats are commonly in demand for fishing," she said.
For more information, contact Bourgeois at 206-685-2443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vince Stricherz | Newswise
Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute
Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy