Earthquake Hazards on the Cascadia Subduction Zone

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Science  10 Apr 1987:
Vol. 236, Issue 4798, pp. 162-168
DOI: 10.1126/science.236.4798.162


Large subduction earthquakes on the Cascadia subduction zone pose a potential seismic hazard. Very young oceanic lithosphere (10 million years old) is being subducted beneath North America at a rate of approximately 4 centimeters per year. The Cascadia subduction zone shares many characteristics with subduction zones in southern Chile, southwestern Japan, and Colombia, where comparably young oceanic lithosphere is also subducting. Very large subduction earthquakes, ranging in energy magnitude (Mw) between 8 and 9.5, have occurred along these other subduction zones. If the Cascadia subduction zone is also storing elastic energy, a sequence of several great earthquakes (Mw 8) or a giant earthquake (Mw 9) would be necessary to fill this 1200-kilometer gap. The nature of strong ground motions recorded during subduction earthquakes of Mw less than 8.2 is discussed. Strong ground motions from even larger earthquakes (Mw up to 9.5) are estimated by simple simulations. If large subduction earthquakes occur in the Pacific Northwest, relatively strong shaking can be expected over a large region. Such earthquakes may also be accompanied by large local tsunamis.

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