Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tree-Ring Study Enables Researchers To Link Massive American Earthquake To Japanese Tsunami In January 1700

Date:
November 1, 1997
Source:
University Of Washington
Summary:
Stumps of long-dead western red cedar trees are revealing new details of a cataclysmic earthquake along North America's west coast more than 100 years before the arrival of the first European occupants.

Stumps of long-dead western red cedar trees are revealing new details of a cataclysmic earthquake along North America's west coast more than 100 years before the arrival of the first European occupants.

Two University of Washington researchers believe that evidence in the dead wood confirms that in the year 1700 a great earthquake struck the Pacific Northwest coast and set off a tsunami, a train of massive ocean waves, that flooded coastal Japan.

The scientists are reporting in the Oct. 30 issue of Nature magazine that they have dated the demise of six trees, along 60 miles of the Washington coast, by "reading" the annual ring patterns in the trunks and roots of the stumps. They found that each of the trees produced its final ring in the 1699 growing season. No further rings were evident, indicating that the trees were dead by the spring of 1700.

"We are saying this huge earthquake really happened," says David Yamaguchi, a UW dendrochronologist, or tree-ring analyst. Last year Japanese scientists reported that a tsunami that hit Honshu island on January 27, 1700, was probably caused by an earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone, a 600-mile coastal fault stretching from British Columbia to northern California.

Based on the size of the tsunami, the Japanese researchers estimated the earthquake at magnitude 9, even though no Cascadia fault earthquake of magnitude 5 or above has ever been recorded by seismologists. The Nature article concludes that the tree dates "mean that the northwestern United States and adjacent Canada are plausibly subject to earthquakes of magnitude 9."

The second author of the paper, Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey and an affiliate UW professor, says the new dates clinch the argument that massive earthquakes can occur where the Juan de Fuca plate, an Oregon-sized slab of crust, collides with a large block of continental crust called the North America plate. The Cascadia fault forms the boundary between the two plates.

Over the past decade, Atwater and other researchers have discovered geologic evidence of repeated magnitude 8 or larger earthquakes along the Cascadia fault. However, the size of the 1700 earthquake remains a subject of much debate, which the tree-ring dates do not resolve, says Atwater. Some scientists have proposed a ceiling of magnitude 8; others have suggested a maximum magnitude of 9.5.

Only a handful of magnitude 9 earthquakes have occurred globally this century. The largest earthquake in the Pacific Northwest in historic times was a magnitude 7.4 in the north Cascade mountains in 1872. This was not on the Cascadia fault.

Yamaguchi first "read" the cedar stumps to show that a great earthquake happened some time after 1690. UW researcher Minze Stuiver then pinned the earthquake to between 1695 and 1710 with precise radiocarbon dating. This led the Japanese scientists to propose the Cascadia fault as the likely origin for the 1700 tsunami.

To test the Japanese theory, the UW researchers dug up the roots of a dozen cedar stumps from the Copalis River south to the Columbia River. In half of these stumps, the dating was inconclusive, but in six they found evidence that the trees had died before the start of the 1700 growing season.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Washington. "Tree-Ring Study Enables Researchers To Link Massive American Earthquake To Japanese Tsunami In January 1700." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 1997. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/11/971101094752.htm>.
University Of Washington. (1997, November 1). Tree-Ring Study Enables Researchers To Link Massive American Earthquake To Japanese Tsunami In January 1700. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/11/971101094752.htm
University Of Washington. "Tree-Ring Study Enables Researchers To Link Massive American Earthquake To Japanese Tsunami In January 1700." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1997/11/971101094752.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins