Are we headed for a geological doomsday?

cascadia-140.jpgFirst aired on The Current (03/24/11)


"Mankind inhabits this earth subject to geological consent — which can be withdrawn at any time."

These words come from author Simon Winchester, in an article he wrote for Newsweek after the recent devastating earthquake in Japan. With so many geological disasters occurring lately — including in Haiti, Chile and New Zealand — it seems as if the planet is withdrawing its consent, rapidly and to dire effect.

Though not a geologist, Winchester has written extensively about geological matters. The award-winning author's books include A Crack in the Edge of the World, about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; Atlantic, a biography of the Atlantic Ocean; and Krakatoa, about the largest volcanic eruption in history. So while he may not be a scientist, he certainly knows a lot about the natural world and the disasters it can unleash.

Winchester believes that major geological events come in clusters, and that the occurrence of multiple natural disasters over a short period of time should not come as a surprise. Rather, they should be expected, and prepared for.

"When a major event happens on one side of a tectonic plate, it's like hitting a brass bell with an enormous clapper and the entire plate begins to shake," Winchester explained to The Current host Anna Maria Tremonti in a recent interview. "If there are weaknesses on the plate, then they tend to give way and there is an earthquake sometime later on that same plate, having been triggered by the initial event."

While Winchester's theory is greatly disputed in the scientific community, he argues that one only needs commonsense to see that the Earth's movements are not a series of isolated events. It may be difficult to see this connectivity on a global scale, but Winchester believes that the planet has offered enough evidence to demonstrate otherwise.

"When the Denali Fault in Alaska ruptures, very shortly thereafter, a matter of hours thereafter, and two and a half thousand miles to the southeast, most of the geysers in the Yellowstone National Park...suddenly start spouting much faster," Winchester explained. He went on to add, "It does suggest, although beguilingly, that the world is much more connected than people have believed."

Winchester contends that it's only a matter of time before another catastrophic earthquake occurs in the one area of the Pacific that remains untouched by recent events: the northwestern United States and western Canada.

Author Jerry Thompson, who also spoke with The Current, agrees. He cites an even more specific location for this impending devastation in his upcoming book, Cascadia's Fault.

The Cascadia Fault runs from northern Vancouver Island to northern California. It is one of the largest and most dangerous fault zones in the world, generating a massive earthquake about every 500 years. It's been silent for a while, but Winchester and Thompson agree that it's only a matter of time.

"I think the likelihood is that it is 100 per cent going to happen. It's just a question of when," Thompson told Tremonti. "Is it going to be 200 years from now or is it going to be tonight? And nobody knows the answer to that."


To hear the full interview, click on the player above.

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