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First tsunami refuge under construction on Washington coast

In April 2013, voters in two counties on Washington’s Pacific coast approved a $13.8 million bond for school renovations in the shared Ocosta School District. The bond had failed twice before, but this time — when the measure included funds to construct a “tsunami refuge for students, staff, and community” — it passed with the support of 70 percent of voters in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties. It will be the first structure of its kind in the country.

13 Mar 2015

Tohoku tsunami may have gotten a boost from submarine slump

When the magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, the mainshock triggered tsunami waves averaging about 10 meters in height by the time they reached the coast of Japan, from Fukushima in the south to the northern tip of Honshu Island. But one mountainous stretch of coastline known as Sanriku, about 100 kilometers north of the main rupture area, saw waves higher than 40 meters. This oddity has led some scientists to suggest that a submarine landslide, triggered by the earthquake, may have contributed to the tsunami’s extreme height in this region.

04 Feb 2015

Benchmarks: December 26, 2004: Indian Ocean tsunami strikes

On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude-9.2 earthquake ruptured the seafloor off Indonesia, sending the most destructive tsunami in recorded history across the Indian Ocean. A wall of water and debris slammed the shores of South Asia; some witnesses described it as sounding like a freight train. Tourists and locals alike scrambled to safety inland and atop tall hotels, recording videos of the surging water that inundated their communities. Many were unable to reach higher ground.

26 Dec 2014

Inland earthquake triggers distant tsunami

On Sept. 24, 2013, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake struck southern Pakistan, killing more than 800 people. The quake made global headlines in part due to the birth of a small island it triggered just off the coast — a mound of mud dubbed Quake Island that has since washed away. A new study has found evidence of another curious event linked to the quake: a small tsunami that appears to have been remotely triggered by a submarine landslide far from the earthquake’s inland epicenter.

26 Nov 2014

Benchmarks: November 8, 2013: Super-typhoon Haiyan tests Phillipines warning protocols

On the morning of Nov. 8, 2013, Super-Typhoon Haiyan struck the east-central Philippines with sustained wind speeds exceeding 300 kilometers per hour. In a mere eight hours, the storm cut a path of total devastation over an area of 300 square kilometers, an area roughly the size of Seattle. More than 7,800 people were confirmed dead or missing and 27,000 injured; more than 4 million were displaced from their homes. Economic losses to homes, infrastructure and agriculture reached more than $12 billion (U.S.).

08 Nov 2014

We're all living in the global aftershock zone

Can a large earthquake trigger another quake hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away? The answer, scientists say, appears to be yes, but when it happens is far from predictable. How does such dynamic triggering affect global earthquake hazards? Perhaps the whole world should be considered an aftershock zone.

19 Oct 2014

Alaskan megathrust fault more active under Kodiak

In 1964, a magnitude-9.2 earthquake ruptured two segments of the Alaskan megathrust fault along more than 900 kilometers from Prince William Sound to Kodiak Island. Historical and paleoseismic evidence has hinted at previous events in this region in 1788 and about 1100, and now a team working on Kodiak Island has found clues of another large event that struck about 500 years ago. The find makes the recurrence interval for the tsunami-producing fault much shorter, potentially increasing the earthquake and tsunami hazard profile, not only for Alaska, but also Hawaii and California.

05 Oct 2014

Floating nuclear plants may be safer from tsunamis

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake just off the coast of Tohoku, Japan, set off a devastating tsunami that swamped the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex on the coast northeast of Tokyo. Backup generators failed, triggering nuclear meltdowns in three reactors that could no longer be cooled.

30 Aug 2014

Massive earthquake strikes Chile

A massive magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile about 95 kilometers north of Iquique on Tuesday night at 6:46 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Because the quake occurred underwater along a thrust fault in the subduction zone, a tsunami warning was issued for several cities along the Chilean coast and around the Pacific Basin. A 2.1-meter wave was reported in some Chilean cities. Preliminary reports indicate several deaths and some damage; power is out in many areas and landslides have also been recorded, according to news reports. So far, widespread destruction — which could easily accompany such a large quake — has thankfully not been reported.  The quake followed weeks of increased seismic activity, including dozens of earthquakes up to magnitude-6.7 that have struck since March 16. It is now clear these were foreshocks. 

01 Apr 2014

Benchmarks: March 27, 1964: The Good Friday Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis

During the Cold War, many Americans lived in fear of the day their town would be shaken by an atomic bomb blast. On Good Friday 1964, some Alaskans thought that day had come. Beginning at 5:36 p.m., intense ground shaking continued for almost five minutes as the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America struck 22.5 kilometers beneath Prince William Sound, where the Pacific Plate is subducting beneath the North American Plate. The shaking — felt over an area of more than 1.3 million square kilometers — was so severe and long-lived that some survivors later said they first thought the Soviet Union had dropped a nuclear bomb on Anchorage, 120 kilometers northwest of the epicenter.

27 Feb 2014