Reports about the loss of life and devastation in Japan are overwhelming — and yet most experts seem to consider Japan as the best prepared for earthquakes among all countries in the world.
I’ve been covering Northwest earthquake science for more than 25 years. When I heard that the Japanese quake was around magnitude 9 and sending a tsunami across the ocean toward the U.S. West Coast, I thought about an earthquake that occurred off the Washington Coast more than 300 years ago.
That earthquake sent a wall of water across the ocean, washing up on the shores of Japan. Because of that tsunami, researchers have been able to calculate the time of that quake to about 9 p.m. on Jan. 26, 1700.
I wrote a story for Saturday’s Kitsap Sun making some general comparisons between Friday’s earthquake in Japan and the last great Cascadia earthquake of 1700.
In broad-brush terms, “the two earthquakes are very similar,” John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, told me. “As a first guess, what might happen here is what happened there.”
For Saturday’s piece, written for a general audience, I decided to avoid some of the technical details about the two earthquakes, so allow me to offer some additional information here: