Ready for the big one? Guest speaker at USU to address earthquake risk May 19

LOGAN – It’s startling to comprehend but the death toll for the recent earthquake in Japan, likely the best prepared country on the planet, has surpassed the combined number of American deaths suffered in the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “It’s a sobering exercise to contemplate how we might have fared had an earthquake of similar magnitude struck along the Cascadia fault beneath Washington and Oregon,” says Tim Melbourne, professor of geological sciences at Central Washington University and director of the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array. “The Pacific Northwest’s vulnerability to seismic destruction matches Japan’s, but its readiness does not.” Melbourne presents “Giant Earthquakes of the Pacific Northwest” Thursday, May 19, at Utah State University. His talk, which begins at 8 p.m. in the Eccles Science Learning Center Emert Auditorium (Room 130), is free and open to all. Melbourne is keynote speaker for the annual joint meeting of the Geological Society of America’s Rocky Mountain and Cordilleran Sections May 18-20 at Logan’s Riverwoods Conference Center. More than 500 geoscientists from throughout western North America, representing universities, agencies and private firms from Mexico, Canada and the United States, are expected to converge on Cache Valley for three days of technical presentations and meetings. “The Japan quake has shown that, in its current state of preparedness, the Pacific Northwest risks unimaginable loss of life and destruction of military, transportation, communication and economic infrastructure,” says Melbourne, whose research has been featured in national media, including the National Geographic Channel. Melbourne says the Cascadia fault has long been considered a sleeping giant, though recent data collected through geographic information systems technology and other methods reveal it is continuously active. “GPS technology, in particular, has been a powerful tool in the arsenal of seismic hazards mitigation, both in the forecasting of future earthquake locations and sizes as well as in the rapid characterization of earthquakes once they begin,” he says. Following his 45-minute talk, Melbourne will take questions from the audience. For more information about the presentation, contact the USU Department of Geology, 435-797-1273.

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