Coastal denizens of the US Pacific Northwest are (or ought to be!) aware of the importance of “the Massive One”—a serious earthquake simply off the coast that may happen sometime. The tectonic plate boundary, the place oceanic crust slides downward beneath the North American continent, is able to producing main shaking and an extremely harmful tsunami. This hasn’t occurred in centuries, resulting in a false sense of safety, however the proof is there for occasions deeper previously.
However the plate boundary itself isn’t the one supply of seismic hazard. Close to Portland, for instance, there are a selection of smaller lively faults. There have even been reasonable earthquakes lately to function reminders. In 1993, a magnitude 5.7 quake simply 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the town induced round $30 million in harm. Right here, too, seismologists can look deeper into the previous. And it reveals that a lot larger earthquakes are doable.
In the present day, we measure and quantify earthquakes with seismometers, nevertheless it’s doable to search out bodily proof that testifies to previous earthquakes. Paleoseismology depends on the truth that some issues transfer throughout an earthquake, displacing their place. In the suitable state of affairs, you may even see about how a lot the fault moved and put a date on every occasion. That enables for a tough estimate of earthquake magnitude, in addition to the common time between main earthquakes. (Notice that this does not imply we will predict the date of the following one. Earthquakes are usually not clockwork occasions.)
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