Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Tohoku grim reminder of potential for Pacific Northwest megaquake

University of Nevada, Reno geophysicist presents study at science conference in Vancouver, B.C.

The March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake is a grim reminder of the potential for another strong-motion mega-earthquake along the Pacific Northwest coast, geophysicist John Anderson of the University of Nevada, Reno told members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in a lecture at their annual conference in Vancouver, B.C. Sunday.

"The Cascadia fault line, which runs from southern Canada all the way to Northern California, could have much stronger ground-motions than those observed in Japan," Anderson, a professor of geophysics, said. "The Tohoku earthquake, while only half the length of Cascadia, is an analog for an earthquake that could happen here in the northwestern United States and southwestern British Columbia."

Both Japan and Cascadia sit above subduction zones that dip at a low angle beneath the land. One might consider them roughly mirror images, he said.

"In this mirror image, one can see that if the same earthquake occurred in Cascadia, the fault would rupture to a significant distance inland, since the Cascadia trench sits much closer to the coastline than the trench off the coast of Japan, Anderson said. "Some models predict that a Cascadia earthquake will not rupture so far under the land, but if it does, the data from the Tohoku earthquake predict stronger ground motions along our west coast than those seen in Japan. In any case, the ground motions from Tohoku are critical for understanding the seismic hazard here in Vancouver, and in Seattle, and Portland, and Eureka and all points in between."

In Cascadia, the last great earthquake occurred on January 26, 1700. Based on the size of the tsunami, the magnitude of that earthquake was about magnitude 9.0.

"Although the average interval is apparently larger, earthquakes of this size in the past may have recurred with intervals of as small as about 300 years. So it would not be a scientific surprise if such an event were to occur in the near future," Anderson said. "If you live in the Pacific northwest, look at the videos of Tohoku as a reminder to be prepared for an earthquake and tsunami."

Anderson, who studies strong ground-motions, spent nine months recently as a visiting research professor at the prestigious Tokyo University, home of one of the world's premier seismology programs. Before coming to the Universtiy of Nevada, Reno in 1998, he earned his doctorate in geophysics from Columbia University and has held appointments at the California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California and the University of California at San Diego.

In his presentation at the AAAS conference, about the strong ground motions in the Tohoku earthquake, he discusses the significance of the data, the effects of the source on the nature of the data, the effects of site response, and some discussion of the engineering effects.

"There have of course been other mega-earthquakes, but this is by far the best-recorded," he said. "The Japanese event will undoubtedly stand as the best-recorded megaquake for a long time to come, both because megaquakes are rare and because no place is as well instrumented as the islands of Japan."

For instance, the strong ground motions that could be generated along Cascadia, unfortunately, might not be observed nearly as thoroughly, since the strong motion instrumentation in most of the Cascadia region is sparse compared to Japan.

Anderson said that in spite of the occasional records with high accelerations, damage to structures from the shaking in Tohoku was reduced by high building standards, and because the ground velocities caused by the earthquake were not high enough to cause damage even at sites with peak acceleration over 1g.

Nevada's land-grant university founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno has an enrollment of 18,000 students and is ranked in the top tier of the nation's best universities. Part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, the University has the system's largest research program and is home to the state's medical school. With outreach and education programs in all Nevada counties and with one of the nation's largest study-abroad consortiums, the University extends across the state and around the world. For more information, visit

Mike Wolterbeek | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>