Why the ‘big one’ earthquake threat to B.C. may be bigger than previously thought

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When “the large one” yet hits, will B.C. beryllium prepared?

A caller study has produced nan clearest-ever look astatine what’s going connected beneath nan seafloor successful an area tin of producing immoderate of nan planet’s astir powerful earthquakes — and warns nan consequence is highest for confederate B.C. and Washington state.

The caller information is “really exciting,” said John Cassidy, an earthquake seismologist pinch Natural Resources Canada.

“It gives america immoderate of nan champion images of what’s happening conscionable disconnected nan seashore of Vancouver Island, Washington, Oregon.”

 'The underwater ngo to research nan West Coast earthquake swarm'

2:11 The underwater ngo to research nan West Coast earthquake swarm

B.C.’s South Coast is successful an area known arsenic nan Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 1,000-kilometre responsibility strategy spanning from nan seashore of Vancouver Island to bluish California. In this area, tectonic plates nether nan water level are slow sliding nether nan North American plate.

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Scientists person agelong known nan built-up unit from that process is yet released successful sudden, powerful earthquakes. But their knowledge of nan circumstantial undersea conditions successful nan Cascadia area has, until now, been “fuzzy,” explained Columbia University marine geophysicist and study co-author Suzanne Carbotte.

Researchers spent 41 days successful 2021 towing waterproof cables pinch 1,200 specialized microphones attached supra 5,500 kilometres of seafloor, scanning elaborate maps of nan geologically-active area.

The information showed that not each segments of nan responsibility strategy were created equal, pinch immoderate little prone to nan threat of large quakes.

The conception disconnected nan seashore of Vancouver Island and Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, by contrast, “is markedly flatter and smoother than segments to nan south,” explained Carbotte.

“And those conditions, flat-smooth responsibility interface, are nan conditions that are associated pinch nan astir destructive earthquakes.”

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1:51 Preparing for nan large 1 pinch nan Great BC ShakeOut

The region, researchers concluded, has nan biggest imaginable for nan largest earthquakes on nan full Cascadia Subduction Zone.

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Cassidy said that’s because erstwhile nan plates do yet slip, they’re apt to descent farther successful 1 changeable than elsewhere.

“Some areas you mightiness spot 20 metres of gaffe wrong a fewer minutes,” he said.

What nan study doesn’t opportunity is erstwhile nan adjacent mega quake will come.

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Historical records propose nan past 1 was successful January 1700, and Cassidy said scientists person identified 19 specified quakes successful nan 9.0 magnitude scope successful nan past 10,000 years.

Such monolithic earthquakes, he said, are expected astir each 500 years, but grounds has shown immoderate gaps of only astir 250 years and immoderate arsenic agelong arsenic 850.

But while nan investigation can’t opportunity erstwhile nan adjacent quake will come, it tin thief america understand wherever it will deed and wherever nan effects will beryllium nan worst, Cassidy said.

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“This study is providing a batch much detail,” he said.

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“That allows america to estimate crushed shaking successful a much, overmuch amended way, crushed shaking tsunami hazard.”

The state has already said nan accusation will thief it hole for nan future.

“The knowing of these consequence factors continues to germinate arsenic investigation becomes available,” Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma said.

“Research is disposable to guarantee our standards are aligned to support group safe.”

Cassidy said nan information will beryllium utilized to update things for illustration B.C.’s building and span codes to guarantee nan nationalist is safe whenever nan large quake comes.

And he said it will pass nan adjacent activity of research, allowing scientists to amended understand nan section threat area.

“If you don’t cognize something,” he said, “you can’t hole for it.”

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