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Seismologists reveal earthquake hotspots

Where will the strongest earthquakes strike?

By Rich_Maloof Dec 7, 2012 5:01PM

Every time a major earthquake hits, scientists and pundits line up to speculate as to when and where the “really big one” will occur. Using a variety of models, they have pointed everywhere from the coast of Japan to New York City to the San Andreas fault — the continental crack ultimately causing California to sink into the Pacific while creating beachfront property for desert-dwelling Arizonans . . . at least in speculative fiction.

Image: Copyright 2012 IDV Solutions, LLC created by John NelsonTurns out, though, that everyone’s predictions about the big one might really be nothing more than speculative fiction (a fact that might have prevented the recent trial and conviction of six Italian scientists for failing to predict the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake).

According to a paper written by geoscientists at Australia’s University of Sydney and published in the scientific journal Solid Earth, the predictive models and hazard location maps that science has used over the last century don’t factor in data related to superquakes — because most of those monster shakedowns occurred hundreds of years before anyone was doing earthquake research.

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Technically called supercycle or giant subduction earthquakes, they occur roughly every 1,000 years and register an eight or better on the Richter Scale. It’s believed that last year’s nine-point Tohoku quake off the coast of Japan was part of a supercycle — and it came from an area of the ocean that many hadn’t considered to be a major earthquake threat. Therein lies the problem: science has been looking at the places where earthquakes routinely occur, and most of those wouldn’t make varsity in the subduction earthquake league.

The hypothesis is that superquakes are created when underwater mountains move, not unlike glaciers, into the convergent area between tectonic plates. After years of tension, the moment of release expels the requisite force to create massive quakes. Researchers have identified 25 areas that could be candidates for supercycle quakes. They’re situated along the Java, Japan, Aleutian, Central and South American, Scotia, Lesser Antilles and Cascadia trenches.

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The Cascadia trench is close to home: it runs from northern California to Vancouver. There have been no measurable subduction quakes in the Cascadia since the invention of earthquake measuring devices. The last time one hit the region was January 26, 1700 — according to geological studies, it was a full-on Richter 9. There is also evidence that more than a dozen have taken place along Cascadia over the past 7500 years, showing up about once every 600 years. That means we should have about 300 years till the next one, so there’s still time for you to move inland or get your affairs in order.

Image: Copyright 2012 IDV Solutions, LLC created by John Nelson

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4Comments
Dec 7, 2012 10:55PM
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omg realy,

     the ring of fire = "earthquake hotspots"

                Earth shattering!!!

how much did this study cost?

you could just look at a usgs recent activity map (  ) and draw that conclusion.

Dec 7, 2012 10:43PM
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i'll be in the Bay Area for xmas, mayan calendar coming soon.

 

Dec 7, 2012 10:27PM
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Why is this news.  It's almost common knowledge.
Dec 7, 2012 10:13PM
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I bought a book about tent camping for beginners off Amazon. Forget those disaster preparedness books, they're way overblown with stuff about the Mayan calendar, polar shifts, and radiation blasts. A camping guide with the basics will serve as an excellent kit for earthquakes and other events.
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