Last week was spring break here in Madison, WI. It’s been a while since I took part in the annual mass exodus, but I decided to take advantage of the time off, pack up, and get out of Dodge for a few days. My destination was chilly, drizzly Seattle for an in-person crash course about the study of earthquakes and their associated dangers in the Puget Sound area. I also went out to meet some of the people—both professional scientists and volunteer citizens—who are helping this effort along.
Spring Break 2011! Downtown Seattle as seen from West Seattle across Elliott Bay.
The timing of my trip during the week after Japan’s subduction-related magnitude 9.0 Tohuku earthquake and the resulting tsunami, and not long after a shallow crustal temblor hit Christchurch, NZ, was purely coincidental. It did, however, provide an engaging, albeit tragic, backdrop for discussing earthquake hazards in the area and individual motivations for contributing to the study of these hazards. The susceptibility of the Puget Sound to both of these types of earthquakes, as well as to large deep earthquakes such as the 2001 Nisqually quake, and the parallels to these recent events is not lost on many in the region.