Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Scientists assess quake, volcanic threats in Russian Far East

By Star-Advertiser staff


The latest trove of information being retrieved after decades of Soviet-era secrecy has far-reaching implications for the Pacific Rim, according to a University of Washington professor of earth and space sciences.

Information on seismic and volcanic activity in the Kamchatka Peninsula and Kuril Islands is relatively scant, in part because Soviet officials shut down outside access to what is now called the Russian Far East. 

However, examination of tsunami deposits and other evidence of prehistoric events in the area over the last decade have revealed that the area is a hotbed of activity, one that has the potential to trigger tsunamis in the rest of the Pacific Basin, according to Jody Bourgeois, who last week addressed the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

A magnitude 9 earthquake in the Russian Far East in 1952 caused significant damage elsewhere in the Pacific. Powerful earthquakes also struck the central Kurils in 2006 and 2007, producing local tsunamis as tall as 50 feet. Demonstrating the far-flung effects of such activity, a tsunami triggered by the 2006 quake did more than $10 million in damage in Crescent City, Calif.

In 2009, an eruption at Sarychev Peak in the Kurils disrupted air traffic in the North Pacific.

Bourgeois said continued research in the area will help scientists better understand the seismic and volcanic threats posed by the region.

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