Cascadia fault

Courtesy of Cascadia Advective Conductive Heat Expedition (CACHE)

It's been a busy summer on the high seas for researchers trying to figure out the inner workings of an ominous earthquake fault.

The Cascadia subduction zone runs offshore from Vancouver Island to Northern California. When it rips, we could have a magnitude-9.0 catastrophe. 

Columbia University/Earth Institute

Updated 6/18/12, with comments and links from whale advocates.

An expensive science mission off the Washington and Oregon coasts has been scaled back, at least for now, out of concern for orca whales. A research ship is using blasts of sound to create maps of a major earthquake fault, which is considered the greatest tsunami risk along the U.S. Pacific coast.

Columbia University/Earth Institute

One of the world’s most advanced research ships will be cruising along the Washington and Oregon coasts this month – to look for clues about giant earthquakes. 

A zone that runs parallel to the coast – but deep beneath the sea – is known to have unleashed mega-quakes in the past, similar to the one that caused the giant tsunami last year in Japan. The Cascadia fault zone runs about 700 miles alongside Vancouver Island, Washington and Oregon.

NHK via YouTube

You may have heard Washington has an earthquake fault similar to the one that devastated Japan.  While there are many fault-lines criss-crossing western Washington, the only one that bears a strong similarity is under the ocean, parallel to our coast-line.  It’s called the Cascadia subduction zone.