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Department of Earth and Space Sciences

News | July 31, 2019

4.6 earthquake shakes Seattle region, no damage reported

A magnitude 4.6 earthquake shook Seattle and the Puget Sound region at 2:51 a.m. Friday, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), rattling some people out of bed, while leaving other people blissfully dormant and unfazed. The earthquake emanated from Three Lakes, Snohomish County, about 9 miles east of downtown Everett. The temblor raises…


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Alison Duvall

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Brian Collins

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News | February 20, 2020

Building Codes for ‘The Really Big One’ in Seattle

Earthquake experts say current building codes don’t reflect the riskiest features of the Seattle area’s geology — but the outlook for survivability looks a lot better if the Really Big One can just hold off for a few more years. The Cascadia subduction zone, centered along a submarine fault just off the West Coast, is…


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Dave Montgomery

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Erin Wirth

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Frank Gonzalez

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Ian Miller

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John Vidale

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News | November 14, 2019

Latest science shows how the ‘biggest one’ will unfold in the Northwest

The shaking from a magnitude 9-plus earthquake felt in western Washington’s population centers will vary depending on the epicenter of the quake. “Where the earthquake starts really matters,” said Erin Wirth, an affiliate assistant professor of Earth and Space Sciences (ESS) and a research geophysicist  for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) based at the University of…


News | July 18, 2019

Lessons from California earthquakes: What Seattle should know about ‘basin effects’

Ridgecrest, California was hit with a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on the morning of July 4, followed by a magnitude 7.1 quake in the same area on July 5. Despite being 125 miles from the epicenter, people in Los Angeles felt long-lasting shaking. This is because of something called “basin effects” — and Seattle should take…


News | April 23, 2016

Office Hours With John Vidale, UW Seismologist

John Vidale is a professor at the University of Washington in the Earth & Space Sciences Department specializing in seismology, particularly around the Cascadia Fault Zone and while there’s been a lot of talk (read: worry and fear) about the Cascadia Subduction Zone this geologist isn’t panicking. John talks to us about the problem of…


News | September 5, 2019

Over 4,100 earthquakes strike west of Puget Sound, but you can’t feel them

West of Puget Sound, the ground is trembling — but even if you live over there, you probably wouldn’t know it. An episodic tremor and slip (ETS) event appears to be underway, according to scientists at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. ETS tends to happen once every 14 months or so, when the Cascadia subduction zone gets a…


News | May 4, 2016

Quick Recap: A Busy April!

April saw a lot of wonderful developments here at the University of Washington, here’s a quick recap: Our first Office Hours interview with John Vidale (more coming of these soon!) UW researchers continued to explore the effects of a $15/hr minimum wage. PBS premiered their 10 Parks that Changed America program featuring our own Thaisa…


News | August 28, 2019

Seismic ‘slow-slip’ event happening now, but will it increase the chance of an earthquake?

Seismologists are monitoring a seismic event that they say is happening right now. It’s called a “slow-slip” event. According to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington, this event happens about every 14 months. PNSN has been tracking it for about two decades, ever since the Nisqually earthquake. Think of Earth as…


News | May 21, 2016

Seismic Neglect: Buildings and Earthquakes

Seismic Neglect | In the first part of a continuing series, The Seattle Times examined officials’ neglect of the most vulnerable kind of building: old, brick structures called unreinforced masonry. Here are answers to some common questions about those buildings. The Northwest is threatened by earthquakes far more destructive than anything Washington state has experienced…


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Steven Walters

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News | April 20, 2017

USGS, partners launch a unified, West Coast-wide earthquake early warning system

The U.S. Geological Survey and university, public and private partners held an event April 10 at the University of Washington to introduce the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning program as a unified, West Coast-wide system. The event also introduced the first pilot uses of the earthquake early warning in Washington and Oregon. The first Pacific Northwest…


News | August 16, 2017

UW gets federal money to boost early-warning system for West Coast earthquakes

The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded $4.9 million to six universities and a nonprofit to help advance an early-warning system for earthquakes along the West Coast. The federal agency says the ShakeAlert system could give people seconds or up to a minute of warning before strong shaking begins. The University of Washington, Central Washington University…


News | November 28, 2017

What if a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Seattle?

In preparation for the BIG ONE — the mighty 9.0-magnitude earthquake that’s expected to lay waste to the Pacific Northwest — geophysicists have created 50 virtual simulations to see how such a quake could rattle the region. The simulations don’t paint a pretty picture for Seattle or the coastal areas of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia…


News | December 7, 2018

What if Alaska’s earthquake happened here?

Last Friday, a 7.0 earthquake rattled Anchorage, Alaska. Amazingly, no one died — and revamped building codes enacted in the wake of the state’s deadly 1964 Good Friday quake meant the city was more prepared than most. Outside of a few structure fires, damage was kept to a minimum. But striking images of tectonic apocalypse…