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Cascadia subduction zone

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The area of the Cascadia subduction zone.

Coordinates: 45N 124W The Cascadia subduction zone (also referred to as the Cascadia fault) is
a convergent plate boundarythat stretches from northern Vancouver Island to northern California. It
is a very long, sloping subduction zonethat separates the Explorer, Juan de Fuca, and Gorda plates,
on the one hand, and the North American Plate, on the other.
The denser oceanic plate is subducting beneath the less dense continental plate offshore of British
Columbia,Washington, Oregon, and northern California. The North American Plate moves in a
general southwest direction, overriding the oceanic plate. The Cascadia subduction zone is where
the two plates meet.
Tectonic processes active in the Cascadia subduction zone region include accretion, subduction,
deep earthquakes, and active volcanism of the Cascades. This volcanism has included such notable
eruptions asMount Mazama (Crater Lake) about 7,500 years ago, Mount Meager about 2,350 years
ago, and Mount St. Helens in 1980.[1] Major cities affected by a disturbance in this subduction zone
would include Vancouver andVictoria, British Columbia; Seattle, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

Contents
[hide]
Cascadia subduction zone
1History

o 1.1Oral history

o 1.2Ghost forests

o 1.3Orphan tsunami

2Geology

3Earthquakes

o 3.1Earthquake effects

o 3.2San Andreas Fault connection

o 3.3Earthquake timing

o 3.4Forecasts of the next major earthquake

4Cascade Volcanic Arc

5See also

6References

7External links

History[edit]
In the 1960s, underground fractures were uncovered by oil companies in Puget Sound. These were
believed to be inactive through the 1990s.[2]
In the 1980s, geophysicists Tom Heaton and Hiroo Kanamori of Caltech compared the generally
quiet Cascadia to more active subduction zones elsewhere in the Ring of Fire. They found
similarities to faults in Chile, Alaska, and Japan's Nankai Trough, locations known for megathrust
earthquakes, a conclusion that was met with skepticism from other geophysicists at the time. [3]
Oral history[edit]
At the time of the 1700 earthquake, there were no written records of the event in Cascadia. Orally-
transmitted legends from the Olympic Peninsula area talk of an epic battle between a thunderbird
and a whale. Therefore, in a 2005 study, seismologist Ruth Ludwin set out to collect and analyze
anecdotes from various First Nations groups. Reports from the Huu-ay-aht,[4] Makah,[4] Hoh,
[5]
Quileute,[2][5] Yurok,[2] and Duwamish[2] peoples referred to earthquakes and saltwater floods. This
collection of data allowed her team to come up with an estimated date range for the event, whose
midpoint fell in the year 1701.[4]
Ghost forests[edit]
During low tide one day in March 1986, paleogeologist Brian Atwater dug along Neah Bay using
a nejiri gama, a small hand hoe. Underneath the top layer of sand, he uncovered a distinct plant
Cascadia subduction zone
arrowgrassthat had grown in a layer of marsh soil. This was proof that the ground had suddenly
sunk under sea level, causing saltwater to kill the vegetation. The events had happened so quickly
as to cause the top layer of sand to seal away any air, thus preserving the centuries-old plants. [3]
In 1987, Atwater mounted another expedition paddling up the Copalis River with Dr. David
Yamaguchi, who was then studying the eruptions of Mount St. Helens.[3] The pair happened upon a
section of "ghost forest," so-called due to the dead, gray stumps left standing after a sudden
inundation of salt water had killed them hundreds of years ago. [5]Originally thought to have died
slowly due to a gradual rise in sea level,[6] closer inspection yielded a different story: the land
plummeted up to two meters during an earthquake. [5]Having initially tested spruce using tree-ring
dating, they found that the stumps were too rotted to count all the outer rings. However, upon having
examined those of the western red cedar and comparing them to the living specimens meters away
from the banks, they were able to approximate their year of death. There were rings up until the year
1690, indicating that the incident had occurred shortly thereafter. Root samples confirmed their
conclusion, narrowing the time frame to the winter of 1699 to 1700.[3][4]
As with the arrowgrass site, the banks of the Copalis River are lined with a layer of marsh followed
by a layer of sand. Jody Bourgeois and her team went on to demonstrate that the sand cover had
originated with a tsunami surge rather than a storm surge. [5]
In 1995, an international team led by Alan Nelson of the USGS further corroborated these findings
with 85 new samples from the rest of the Pacific Northwest. All along British Columbia, Washington
State, and Oregon, the coast had fallen due to a violent earthquake and been covered by sand from
the subsequent tsunami.[3]
Yet another ghost forest was identified by Gordon Jacoby, a dendrochronologist from Columbia
University, 60 feet (18 m) underwater in Lake Washington. Unlike the other trees, these suffered
from a landslide rather than a dip in the fault during a separate event around 900 CE. [2]
Orphan tsunami[edit]
A 1996 study published by seismologist Kenji Satake supplemented the research by Atwater et al.
with tsunami evidence across the Pacific.[4] Japanese annals, which have recorded natural disasters
since approximately 600 BCE,[6] had reports of a sixteen-foot tsunami that struck the coast of Honshu
Island during the Genroku.[3][4] Since no earthquake had been observed to produce it, scholars
dubbed it an "orphan tsunami."[6] Translating the Japanese calendar, Satake found the incident had
taken place around midnight of 2728 January 1700, ten hours after the earthquake.

Geology[edit]
Cascadia subduction zone
The structure of the Cascadia subduction zone.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) is a 1,000 km (620 mi) long dipping fault that stretches from
Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino in northern California. It separates the Juan de Fuca
and North America plates. New Juan de Fuca plate is created offshore along the Juan de Fuca
Ridge.[7][8]
The Juan de Fuca plate moves toward, and eventually is shoved beneath, the continent (North
American plate). The zone separates the Juan de Fuca Plate, Explorer Plate, Gorda Plate,
and North American Plate. Here, theoceanic crust of the Pacific Ocean has been sinking beneath the
continent for about 200 million years, and currently does so at a rate of approximately 40 mm/yr.[7][8]
At depths shallower than 30 km (19 mi) or so, the CSZ is locked by friction while strain slowly builds
up as the subduction forces act, until the fault's frictional strength is exceeded and the rocks slip past
each other along the fault in a megathrust earthquake. Below 30 km (19 mi) the plate interface
exhibits episodic tremor and slip.
The width of the Cascadia subduction zone varies along its length, depending on the angle of the
subducted oceanic plate, which heats up as it is pushed deeper beneath the continent. As it
becomes hotter and more molten, it eventually loses the ability to store mechanical stress and
generate earthquakes. On the Hyndman and Wang diagram (not shown, click on reference link
below) the "locked" zone is storing up energy for an earthquake, and the "transition" zone, although
somewhat plastic, could probably rupture.[9]
The Cascadia subduction zone runs from triple junctions at its north and south ends. To the north,
just below Haida Gwaii, it intersects the Queen Charlotte Fault and the Explorer Ridge. To the south,
just off of Cape Mendocino in California, it intersects the San Andreas Fault and the Mendocino
Fracture Zone at the Mendocino Triple Junction.

Earthquakes[edit]
Cascadia subduction zone

Cascadia earthquake sources.

Earthquake effects[edit]
Great subduction zone earthquakes are the most powerful earthquakes known to occur, and can
exceedmagnitude 9.0. They occur when enough energy (stress) has accumulated in the "locked"
zone of the fault to cause a rupture known as a megathrust earthquake. The magnitude of a
megathrust earthquake is proportional to length of the rupture along the fault. The Cascadia
Subduction Zone, which forms the boundary between the Juan de Fuca and North American plates,
is a very long sloping fault that stretches from mid-Vancouver Island to Northern California. [10]
Because of the great length of the fault, the Cascadia Subduction Zone is capable of producing very
large earthquakes if rupture occurs along its entire length. Thermal and deformation studies indicate
that the region 60 kilometers (about 40 miles) downdip (east) of the deformation front (where plate
deformation begins) is fully locked (the plates do not move past each other). Further downdip, there
is a transition from fully locked to aseismic sliding.[10]
In 1999, a group of Continuous Global Positioning System sites registered a brief reversal of motion
of approximately 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) over a 50 kilometer by 300 kilometer (about 30 mile by
200 mile) area. The movement was the equivalent of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. [11] The motion did
not trigger an earthquake and was only detectable as silent, non-earthquake seismic signatures. [12]
In 2004, a study conducted by the Geological Society of America analyzed the potential for land
subsidence along the Cascadia subduction zone. It postulated that several towns and cities on the
west coast of Vancouver Island, such as Tofino and Ucluelet, are at risk for a sudden, earthquake
initiated, 12 m subsidence.[13]
San Andreas Fault connection[edit]
Cascadia subduction zone
Studies of past earthquake traces on both the northern San Andreas Fault and the southern
Cascadia subduction zone indicate a correlation in time which may be evidence that quakes on the
Cascadia subduction zone may have triggered most of the major quakes on the northern San
Andreas during at least the past 3,000 years or so. The evidence also shows the rupture direction
going from north to south in each of these time-correlated events. The 1906 San Francisco

Great earthquakes
estimated year interval
2005 source [15]
2003 source [16]
(years)
about 9 pm, January 26, 1700 (NS) 780
780-1190 CE 880-960 CE 210
690-730 CE 550-750 CE 330
350-420 CE 250-320 CE 910
660-440 BCE 610-450 BCE 400
980-890 BCE 910-780 BCE 250
1440-1340 BCE 1150-1220 BCE unknown

earthquake seems to have been a major exception to this correlation, however, as it was not
preceded by a major Cascadia quake.[14]
Earthquake timing[edit]
The last known great earthquake in the northwest was the 1700 Cascadia
earthquake. Geological evidence indicates that great earthquakes (> magnitude 8.0) may have
occurred sporadically at least seven times in the last 3,500 years, suggesting a return time of about
500 years.[3][4][5] Seafloor core evidence indicates that there have been forty-one subduction zone
earthquakes on the Cascadia subduction zone in the past 10,000 years, suggesting a general
average earthquake recurrence interval of only 243 years.[6] Of these 41, nineteen have produced a
"full margin rupture," wherein the entire fault opens up. [3] By comparison, similar subduction zones in
the world usually have such earthquakes every 100 to 200 years; the longer interval here may
indicate unusually large stress buildup and subsequent unusually large earthquake slip. [17]
There is also evidence of accompanying tsunamis with every earthquake. One strong line of
evidence for these earthquakes is convergent timings for fossil damage from tsunamis in the Pacific
Northwest and historical Japanese records of tsunamis.[18]
The next rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone is anticipated to be capable of causing
widespread destruction throughout the Pacific Northwest.[19]
Forecasts of the next major earthquake[edit]
See also: 1700 Cascadia earthquake Future threats
Prior to the 1980s, scientists thought that the subduction zone just did not generate earthquakes like
the other subduction zones around the world, but research by Brian Atwater and Kenji Satake tied
together evidence of a large tsunami on the Washington coast with documentation of an orphan
tsunami in Japan (a tsunami without an associated earthquake). The two pieces of the puzzle were
linked, and they then realized that the subduction zone was more hazardous than previously
suggested.
Cascadia subduction zone
In 2009, some geologists predicted a 10% to 14% probability that the Cascadia Subduction Zone will
produce an event of magnitude 9.0 or higher in the next 50 years.[20] In 2010, studies suggested that
the risk could be as high as 37% for earthquakes of magnitude 8.0 or higher [21][22]
Geologists and civil engineers have broadly determined that the Pacific Northwest region is not well
prepared for such a colossal earthquake. The earthquake is expected to be similar to the 2011
Thoku earthquake and tsunami, because the rupture is expected to be as long as the 2004 Indian
Ocean earthquake and tsunami. The resulting tsunamimight reach heights of approximately 30
meters (100 ft).[20] FEMA estimates some 13,000 fatalities from such an event, with another 27,000
injured. It predicts that a million people will be displaced, with yet another 2.5 million requiring food
and water. An estimated 1/3 of public safety workers will not respond to the disaster due to a
collapse in infrastructure and a desire to ensure the safety of themselves and their loved ones.
[6]
Other analyses predict that even a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Seattle would result in 7,700 dead
and injured, $33 billion in damages, 39,000 buildings largely or totally destroyed, and 130
simultaneous fires.[2]

Cascade Volcanic Arc[edit]

Juan de Fuca Triple Junctions & the Cascade Volcanic Arc.

Main article: Cascade Volcanic Arc


The Cascade Volcanic Arc is a continental volcanic arc that extends from northern California to the
coastal mountains of British Columbia.[1] The arc consists of a series of Quaternary age
stratovolcanoes that grew on top of pre-existing geologic materials that ranged
from Miocene volcanics to glacial ice.[1] The Cascade Volcanic arc is located approximately 100 km
inland from the coast, and forms a north-to-south chain of peaks that average over 3,000 m
(10,000 ft) in elevation.[1] The major peaks from south to north include:

Lassen Peak and Mt. Shasta (California)


Cascadia subduction zone
Crater Lake (Mazama), Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood (Oregon)

Mt. Adams, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak, Mt. Baker (Washington)

Mt. Garibaldi and Mt. Meager (British Columbia)


The most active volcanoes in the chain include Mount St. Helens, Mt. Baker, Lassen Peak, and Mt.
Hood. St. Helens captured worldwide attention when it erupted catastrophically in 1980.[1] St. Helens
continues to rumble, albeit more quietly, emitting occasional steam plumes and experiencing small
earthquakes, both signs of continuing magmatic activity.[1]
Most of the volcanoes have a main, central vent from which the most recent eruptions have
occurred. The peaks are composed of layers of solidified andesitic to dacitic magma, and the more
siliceous (and explosive) rhyolite.
The volcanoes above the subduction zone include: