Researchers predict that an earthquake will hit the U.S. West Coast, affecting Northern California to British Columbia. The earthquake is projected to be so powerful that it will kill at least 10,000 and cause $32 billion in damages.
The last time an earthquake of this magnitude struck the West Coast was in the year 1700.
“By the year 2060, if we have not had an earthquake, we will have exceeded 85 percent of all known intervals of earthquake recurrence in 10,000 years,” said Jay Patton, co-author of Oregon State University’s research, in a recent press release.
Since year 1900, the Earth has been shaken by approximately 17 earthquakes each year, ranging between 7.0 and 8.0 on the Richter scale.
In the last week, several large earthquakes struck China, Japan, Iran and Pakistan.
China reports that at least 186 are dead and over 8,000 wounded. Roughly 80 of the houses in Mashkel, Pakistan have been obliterated, leaving 35 of its residents dead according to CNN.
“Earthquakes are a constant factor on Earth,” said Associate Professor of Geology David Dobson. “For the most part, they happen in a predictable way, but it can be hard to plan for single earthquakes.”
The crust of the Earth is made of tectonic plates, and the edges of these plates are covered in fault lines. Earthquakes occur when tectonic plates grind against each other, and most earthquakes occur within these fault lines.
“The Himalayas are a danger zone, as is the West Coast of South America,” said Dobson. “The Pacific Ocean is the Ring of Fire.”
Given the recent public attention to earthquake activity, some are asking if there has been an increase in the occurrence of earthquakes over the last few years.
“Earthquakes have been happening since before we were here and have only been researched recently,” said CCE sophomore and Geology major Jeffery Jarvis.
In recent decades, there has been significant technological advancement in the monitoring of earthquakes. In 1931, there were 350 seismograph stations in the world. Today, there are more than 8,000.
These seismograph stations locate roughly 20,000 earthquakes annually and approximately 50 earthquakes each day.
“Like every random event, there are clusters when earthquakes are more common,” said Dobson. “I don’t think there have been more intense earthquakes recently.”
Even with this new technology, predicting earthquakes can be a challenge.
A 2010 report identified a 37 percent chance of an earthquake striking the West Coast within the next 50 years. New reports have raised this likelihood to a 100 percent.
“This Earth will hit us,” said Kent Yu, an engineer and Chairman of the Commission, to lawmakers. “It’s just a matter of how soon.”