REALLY BIG ONE: A magnitude 9.0 earthquake in northwest America is said to be a 'certainty'
A COLOSSAL magnitude 9.0 earthquake that will hit northwest US at five times the speed of sound “like a train” is a 100% “certainty”, experts have warned.
Seismologists are on high alert for a “Big One” in California after a series of large earthquake struck Mexico, killing hundreds and causing widespread devastation.
For months experts have been warning that an "inevitable" magnitude 7.0 earthquake or greater is overdue by decades in the US state.
The probability of a “Big One" earthquake striking the Bay Area of San Francisco in the next 30 years is said to be around 70%.
But experts are warning an even larger earthquake – dubbed “the Really Big One” – that could one day wreak havoc throughout the northwest of the US.
Chris Goldfinger, a seismologist at Oregon State University, has been researching the risk at one of the world’s most dangerous earthquake faults in northwest America.
The fault, called the Cascadia Subduction Zone, stretches more than 600 miles, from Cape Mendocino in northern California to Vancouver Island in Canada.
Over the last ten thousands years, the fault has caused at least 20 magnitude 9 earthquakes, with the most recent striking 317 years ago.
Goldfinger believes it is only a matter of time before the fault generates another catastrophic magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
DANGER ZONE: The Cascadia Subduction Zone stretches more than 600 miles across northwest US
“The certainty is 100 percent.”
Chris Goldfinger, seismologist at Oregon State University
“The geological information is so compelling, there’s no debate about that. We know it’s coming.”
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There is a 10 to 14% chance a magnitude 9.0 or over earthquake could strike within the next 50 years, according to US Geological Survey (USGS).
But seismologists in the US are not taking any chances.
Art Frankel, a USGS seismologist, said the northwest would shake for two or three minutes if a magnitude 9 earthquake struck the fault offshore.
He said a rupture of that magnitude would travel along the fault line at around 3,600mph – more than five times the speed of sound, 767mph.
UNDER THREAT: California is said to be long overdue a massive earthquake
“It’s like a train traveling toward you, a sort of Doppler effect where the waves pile up in front of the rupture as the rupture comes toward you,” Frankel said.
An earthquake that struck inland would be less devastating, as the energy would disperse towards the sea, lessening its impact.
“Shaking is going to be serious for any of these scenarios, that’s for sure,” Frankel added.
The warning comes after more than 10 million peeople took part in large scale earthquake drillsacross California last week.