The newest studies on the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast of the Pacific Northwest have identified a "clustering" of great earthquakes of the type that would cause a major tsunami, yielding a historical record with two distinct implications - one that’s good, the other not.
According to scientists at Oregon State University, this subduction zone has just experienced a cluster of four massive earthquakes during the past 1600 years, and if historical trends continue, this cluster could be over and the zone may already have entered a long quiet period of 500 to 1,000 years, which appears to be common following a cluster of earthquake events.
Alternatively, the current cluster of earthquakes may have one or more events left in it – some clusters within the past 10,000 years have had clusters of up to five events – and within a cluster, the average time interval between earthquakes is 300 years. Since the last major Cascadia earthquake occurred in the year 1700, the next event may well be imminent.
"We’re going to continue to study the geology of these events and identify the patterns and likelihood of future events as best we can," Goldfinger said. "A few things are clear. There are clusters of earthquake events on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and there are big gaps. And we’re either in a cluster right now or at the end of one."
"Whether the current cluster is over yet, we just don’t know," he said. "One possibility is that we could be done with this cluster and looking at a period of many hundreds of years before the next earthquake."
"The other distinct possibility is we could still be in a cluster of events. If that’s the case, the average time interval between earthquakes within a cluster is already up. We would be due just about any day."
Chris Goldfinger | EurekAlert!
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