CORVALLIS, Ore., May 27 (UPI) -- A U.S. scientist says there's a more than one-in-three chance a major earthquake like the one that struck Chile this year could strike the Pacific Northwest.
Oregon State University Associate Professor Chris Goldfinger, a marine geologist, said he and his colleagues have analyzed the U.S. Northwest's seismic history, which includes 41 magnitude 8.2 or higher earthquakes during the past 10,000 years.
"Perhaps more striking than the probability numbers is that we can now say that we have already gone longer without an earthquake than 75 percent of the known times between earthquakes in the last 10,000 years," Goldfinger said.
The last major earthquake to hit the Cascadia Subduction Zone was in January 1700, and scientists are aware of the impact because of written records from Japan documenting the damage caused by an ensuing 30-foot tsunami. Their knowledge about what happened in Oregon and Washington is more speculative, but he said the consensus is that the physical alteration to the coast was stunning.
Goldfinger says the Pacific Northwest is at risk for an earthquake that could meet or exceed the power of seismic events that took place in Chile, as well as Haiti.
"It is not a question of if a major earthquake will strike, it is a matter of when," Goldfinger said. "And the 'when' is looking like it may not be that far in the future."