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Toward an Integrative Geological and Geophysical View of Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquakes

  • Walton, Maureen A.L.
  • Staisch, Lydia M.
  • Dura, Tina
  • Pearl, Jessie K.
  • Sherrod, Brian
  • Gomberg, Joan
  • Engelhart, Simon
  • Tréhu, Anne
  • Watt, Janet
  • Perkins, Jon
  • Witter, Robert C.
  • Bartlow, Noel
  • Goldfinger, Chris
  • Kelsey, Harvey
  • Morey, Ann E.
  • Sahakian, Valerie J.
  • Tobin, Harold
  • Wang, Kelin
  • Wells, Ray
  • Wirth, Erin
Published Article
Annual Reviews
Publication Date
May 30, 2021
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-earth-071620-065605
Annual Reviews


The Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) is an exceptional geologic environment for recording evidence of land-level changes, tsunamis, and ground motion that reveals at least 19 great megathrust earthquakes over the past 10 kyr. Such earthquakes are among the most impactful natural hazards on Earth, transcend national boundaries, and can have global impact.Reducing the societal impacts of future events in the US Pacific Northwest and coastal British Columbia, Canada, requires improved scientific understanding of megathrust earthquake rupture, recurrence, and corresponding hazards. Despite substantial knowledge gained from decades of research, large uncertainties remain about the characteristics and frequencies of past CSZ earthquakes. In this review, we summarize geological, geophysical, and instrumental evidence relevant to understanding megathrust earthquakes along the CSZ and associated uncertainties. We discuss how the evidence constrains various models of great megathrust earthquake recurrence in Cascadia and identify potential paths forward for the earthquake science community. ▪  Despite outstanding geologic records of past megathrust events, large uncertainty of the magnitude and frequency of CSZ earthquakes remains. ▪  This review outlines current knowledge and promising future directions to address outstanding questions on CSZ rupture characteristics and recurrence. ▪  Integration of diverse data sets with attention to the geologic processes that create different records has potential to lead to major progress.

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