Sumatra 2004. Chile 2010. New Zealand and Japan 2011. North America... tomorrow?

The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a fracture in the earth’s crust roughly 100 kilometers offshore, running 1,100 kilometers from northern California to northern Vancouver Island. This fault generates a monster earthquake about every 500 years. There is roughly a 30 percent chance that just such a disaster could happen within the next fifty years. Or it could happen tonight.

Cascadia’s fault is virtually identical to the tectonic time bombs that decimated Sumatra in 2004, Chile in 2010, and Japan in 2011. It will generate the same kind of earthquake, at magnitude 9 or higher. The horrors we witnessed in agonizing detail, broadcast live by Japanese television, will happen all over again when the next segment of the Ring of Fire tears itself apart. From the shores of British Columbia all the way to California, buildings will be shaken and crushed by a megathrust earthquake, and a tsunami will speed both inland and across the Pacific, tossing cars, smashing homes, crippling infrastructure, and killing or wounding thousands as it destroys almost everything in its path. 

Cascadia Fault Line
Shockwaves from the earthquake will slam five cities at once—Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Portland, and Sacramento—and will wreck dozens of smaller towns and coastal villages. The tsunami waves will hit the beaches of the West Coast, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.

Written by a journalist who has been following this story for twenty-five years, Cascadia’s Fault tells the tale of this potentially devastating earthquake and the killer waves it will spawn.


"More than 230,000 people in 14 countries around the Indian Ocean died or disappeared, many of them before our eyes, and there was nothing any of us could do. Everything not nailed to the ground was torn loose and carried off by the roaring water. And there was more to come. Even after the first water had cut a swath nearly a mile inland and then sucked itself halfway out to sea again, full of death and floating debris, people standing among the palms were so stunned by the spectacle they waited too long to outrun the next wave. Until that moment, only a handful of people in the world had ever experienced what a tsunami was really like. Fewer still had any concept of what causes these so-called tidal waves. But the Indian Ocean disaster was only the most vivid example of what lies ahead. What happened to Sumatra in 2004 . . . will also happen to California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia." - Cascadia's Fault by Jerry Thompson


"The recent seismic catastrophe in Japan is a foretaste of a similar cataclysm brewing in America, according to this alarming geological exposé. Thompson, a former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter and documentarian, investigates the Cascadia Subduction Zone, an 800-mile-long fault where the ocean floor slowly grinds away underneath the North American continental plate. The fault has a millennia-long history of causing major quakes, including magnitude-9 monsters and 90-foot waves that could lay waste to Vancouver, Seattle, and dozens of coastal towns. But because no written records of this history exist and the fault has been quiescent since 1700, geologists were unaware of the danger. How they uncovered the violent history of this deceptively placid area, long a subject of academic controversy, is the fascinating scientific detective story at the heart of Thompson's account. He follows along as researchers piece together clues from ocean sediment core samples and tree rings, antique Japanese manuscripts, and laser gadgets and GPS devices that measure the inch-a-year movements of mountain chains; he blanches as their computer models illustrate the devastating impact of tsunamis and the fatal rhythms through which skyscrapers resonate to a temblor's shocks. The result is a lucid, engrossing look at the Earth's subtle dynamics--and a timely warning about their awesome power very close to home." - Publishers Weekly

“Cascadia is under enormous stress. The ocean floor descends eastward.
The overriding continent moves westward. Deep beneath Cascadia’s
surface, in the throat of a subduction zone, the fault separating these
two tectonic plates is currently locked. At some time between now and
whenever, the fault will suddenly release in a giant tsunami-generating
earthquake. Cascadia waits.”
—Chris Yorath, Geological Survey of Canada (retired ), co -author of
At Risk : Earthquakes and Tsunamis on the West Coast

Writer and director Jerry Thompson describes the brilliant scientific
research conducted by Canadian and U.S. geologists and geophysicists
that led to the important discovery that the Pacific Northwest experiences
some of the largest earthquakes on Earth—giant subduction zone
earthquakes. The Cascadia Subduction Zone is armed and dangerous—
an earthquake comparable to, or even larger than, the great earthquake
in Japan in March 2011, is inevitable. This inevitability demands that we
better prepare ourselves and our cities for ‘the Big One.’ Cascadia’s Fault
is a captivating read that gives readers a sense of the excitement of scientific
discovery and the importance of science to society.”
—John Clague, Director, Centre for Natural Hazard Research , Simon
Fraser University

“There is no shortage of recent reminders of the power of great earthquakes
and the tsunamis they generate, such as the quakes that hit
Sumatra in 2004, Chile in 2010, and Japan in March 2011. All these disasters
were caused by the rupture of the same type of fault as the subject
of this book: the subduction zone megathrust. By reading this book, we
can get a glimpse of how science is helping us understand Cascadia’s
megathrust and how this understanding can help us to be better prepared
for its next rupture.”
—Kelin Wang, Research Scientist , Geological Survey of Canada