Researchers find a tear in a tectonic plate under Oregon

MEDFORD, Ore – Experts say there’s a one in three chance ‘the big one’ hits in the next 50 years. While there is no way to know when it will happen, scientists are starting to unpack new information about the tectonic plates under Oregon.

Researchers have now discovered a tear in the Juan de Fuca plate in Oregon. With more research, this tear could help predict what will happen when the west coast starts shaking.

The Juan de Fuca plate is colliding and going under the North American plate off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.  This causes stresses, which then produces a large earthquake every few hundred years.

“When a plate subducts under, it’s going to be stretched at the top and compressed at the bottom. Stretching rock causes fractures. The fracture could be a gap,” Eric Dittmer, Emeritus Professor at Southern Oregon University, said.

A gap or a weak area in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. A recent discovery by William Hawley, PH.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley, found a tear in the Juan de Fuca plate. The tear is reported to be at least 93 miles beneath the surface in Central Oregon.

“Which could be the source of the next earthquake,” Dittmer said.

While difficult to predict, Dittmer says the findings could help scientists estimate what could come as a result, like earthquakes or volcanic activity. However researchers say more studies need to be done to figure out what the outcome will be.

“It’s a subject of particular interest, therefore its a subject of particular study,” Dittmer said.

It is still a mystery as to what will happen when the Juan de Fuca plate is swallowed up, but scientists are keeping a close eye on it.

Here in Medford, experts say we will be somewhat isolated when the earthquake hits. That’s why they now recommend people be prepared with supplies to be self-sufficient for a minimum of two weeks. When the big one comes, scientists say the ground could shake up to six or seven minutes.

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