The next big earthquake is due in the Pacific Northwest—but now scientists have pinpointed where along the coast a large earthquake is most likely to happen, according to a study published Monday.
“We observed very compact sediments offshore of Washington and northern Oregon that could support earthquake rupture over a long distance and close to the trench, which increases both earthquake and tsunami hazards,” lead author of the study Shuoshuo Han, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, said in a statement.
Offshore of Washington and northern Oregon, ocean floor sediments are much more compact than in central Oregon—indicating that sediments are less porous and have less water between the grains. That all adds up to a disaster about to happen, according to the study, which was led by the University of Texas at Austin and published in Nature Geoscience.
The compact sediments in an area called the Cascadia subduction zone offshore the Pacific Northwest increase the likelihood of major earthquakes and tsunamis.