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Penrose Conference Marks the Great Cascadia Earthquake Tricentennial

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The U.S. Geological Survey, Geological Survey of Canada, and Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries co-sponsored a GSA Penrose Conference at Seaside, Oregon, on June 4th-8th to mark the tricentennial year of the A.D. 1700 Cascadia earthquake. Coastal and offshore geologic work has confirmed that many great subduction earthquakes have struck the Pacific Northwest region in the last several thousand years. Walter Barnhardt and Robert Kayen of the Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) in Menlo Park joined a multinational group of about 75 Earth scientists, engineers, and public officials in order to:

  • critically review current knowledge about earthquakes in the region,
  • assess paleoseismologic evidence for past great earthquakes,
  • clarify the hazards posed by strong ground shaking and tsunamis,
  • discuss strategies for reducing losses from subduction earthquakes, and
  • identify new research directions.

The conference consisted of three days of discussions prompted by talks and posters. Investigators from the CMGP Cascadia Earthquake Hazards Project (EHP) gave presentations on

  • our current understanding of the seismic slope stability of Holocene deltas (Barnhardt and Kayen),
  • paleo-earthquake evidence recorded in turbidites (Hans Nelson, formerly of CMGP)
  • and tsunami deposits (Eileen Hemphill-Haley, formerly of CMGP),
  • Neogene structure of the Cascadia margin (Patricia McCrory, EHZ), and
  • modeling of paleo-earthquake magnitude based on ancient liquefaction features (Kayen).

Brian Atwater (EHZ) and Eileen Hemphill-Haley led a field trip along the nearby Niawiakum River, where evidence for past earthquakes and tsunamis was examined from a fleet of canoes, with occasional group-bonding excursions on foot through boot-sucking mud. The conference venue was a low-lying beachfront hotel, which made all participants keenly aware of tsunami hazards-high ground was located one mile and two rickety bridges away. Running shoes were optional.

Related Web Sites
Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami Hazards Project
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
2000 Penrose Conference
Geological Society of America

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