From the Revkin Interview: The Earthquake Threat to Oregon

By Chris Mooney | March 15, 2010 12:45 pm

800px-ADBC_Branch_in_BeiChuan_after_earthquakeWhile there was much I liked about my Point of Inquiry interview with Andy Revkin, perhaps nothing was more striking than his direct analogy between the massively deadly 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in China, and what is likely to happen someday in Oregon. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing from him:

In Oregon…where there’s a known, extraordinary seismic risk, cities and communities are still not doing much to gird the buildings that matter most, like schools, to make them less likely to fall down and kill thousands of kids and teachers….essentially what you saw in Sichuan province, almost unavoidably will be seen in lots of places in Oregon, where there’s that extraordinary fault offshore, the Cascadia fault, that will generate an extraordinary earthquake, most likely in this century, pretty plausibly in the next few decades, if not tomorrow–that will destroy 1,200 schools. The schools are listed, they’ve been studied, we know where they are, the ones that are very likely or certain to fall down when that  quake hits. If my kids were in one of those schools, I’d be pretty energized.

Revkin goes on to discuss why we tend to ignore risks like these, even though there is no possible rational justification for it….you can listen here. The section begins around minute 23:30. And don’t forget to subscribe to Point of Inquiry on iTunes!

Meanwhile, to jon a discussion that has begun about the show, zip over here

CATEGORIZED UNDER: point of inquiry

Comments (4)

  1. It’s the same thing that happened in New Orleans. . .geoscientists had been warning of the coming catastrophe for literally decades, but were largely ignored. In fact, I remember sitting in my intro geology class back in 1999, and the professor saying that New Orleans was one of the (geologically) most dangerous places to live in the US. Ironically, it’s only after the body counts accumulate that people start to ask why they weren’t warned earlier! I suspect we’re also seeing the same thing right now with climate change. Argh.

  2. Gaythia

    The Cascadian fault is an off-shore subduction zone that runs from Northern California to British Columbia. Awareness of the threat this fault poses seems to be increasing. The Canadian Geological Survey has a good website describing this with lots of informative diagrams at: http://gsc.nrcan.gc.ca/geodyn/mega_e.php .

    The southern portion of this fault is generally believed to have the highest probability of rupture. An Oregon based disaster preparedness site is at: http://oem-oregon.blogspot.com/2010/02/earthquake-news-from-new-review-in.html. Many coastal communities there are taking part in tsunami awareness and mitigation programs.

    While Oregon’s largest population centers are in the Willamette valley and not on the coast the fact that structures there are frequently on alluvial fill puts them at risk.

    However, I believe that the Oregon school damage figures you cite above may be exaggerated or out of date according to the most recent assessment on the Oregon State Department of Education website. This site has another nice map.
    http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=2061

    “Of the 2182 K-12 school buildings reviewed using RVS, 274 were ranked as at Very High Seismic Risk and 744 were ranked as High Risk. There were 497 buildings that were Moderate Risk and 667 that were Low risk. The map to the left shows the location of the 2,109 sites assessed as part of the Statewide Seismic Needs Assessment”.

  3. Dark Tent

    essentially what you saw in Sichuan province, almost unavoidably will be seen in lots of places in Oregon, where there’s that extraordinary fault offshore, the Cascadia fault, that will generate an extraordinary earthquake, most likely in this century, pretty plausibly in the next few decades, if not tomorrow..” — Andrew Revkin

    While the probability of a magnitude 7.9 (size of Sichuan earthquake) or greater along the Cascadia fault in Oregon over the next 100 years may be significant, based on actual probability estimates (made by USGS, for example) it may be a bit of an overreach to say “most likely in this century”.

    “Most likely” would seem to imply > 50% probability.

    The estimated probability of 7.9 magnitude (size of Sichuan earthquake) or greater within next 100 years for cities and towns along the coast or Oregon is between 20-25% (3-4% for Portland )

    For those same coastal cities and towns , the probability of a mag 7.9 or greater occurring withing the next 50 years is between 10-12%.

    For those same coastal cities and towns ,the probability of a mag 7.9 or greater occurring withing the next 10 years is between 2-3%.

    To be clear: I’m not saying one should not prepare if there is “only” a 20-25% (as opposed to > 50%) probability of such a large earthquake in that region within the next 100 years. Clearly one should.

    I just think one has to be careful that the claims match the estimates.

  4. I observed a connection between the proximity of Venus when the Moon is conjunct to it with the earthquakes off the Oregon Coast. The most likely times for the earthquakes July 13, August 12 and September 9th 2010.

    Please look at the article with solar diagrams:
    http://buryl.com/Earthquakes.htm

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »