Japan Megathrust Earthquake
Natori, Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan after the devastating 2011 megathrust earthquake. Researchers claim a similar quake is set to hit the Pacific Coast. Reuters

A historically large earthquake is scheduled to hit the Pacific Coast, according to a new study released this week. British Columbia is reportedly the area most at risk for what researchers are calling a “mega-earthquake,” also known as megathrust earthquake, a tremor that hasn’t hit the region in more than 11,000 years.

According to a study published Wednesday by the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University in Victoria B.C., sea floor sediment samples removed off the coast of Vancouver Island confirmed claims that British Columbia is anticipated to experience a high-magnitude quake anytime within the next 700 years. The report, published by CBC News, stated findings that the last 9.0 magnitude mega-earthquake in the region occurred in 1700.

The author behind the study, University Assistant Professor Audrey Dallimore, said the last mega-earthquake occurred 313 years ago, calling the area overdue for another quake after sediment samples found the damaging phenomenons occur every 500 to 1,000 years. “[It] may happen within our lifetimes and will certainly happen at some point over the life of our communities and our infrastructures,” Dallimore said.

Testing on the sediment samples, which can be read in a similar fashion as reading rings on a tree, was conducted by utilizing radiocarbon dating to determine the sizes and dates of past megathrust earthquakes. “These layers have given us a story,” Dallimore said. "Year by year, all the way to the end of the last glaciations.”

Megathrust earthquakes occur when a piece of the Earth’s crust forces itself underneath another plate as opposed to a traditional earthquake which is caused by two plates rubbing against one another. As a matter of reference to their damaging capabilities, the 2011 earthquake and consequential tsunami in Japan that killed more than 18,000 is considered a mega-quake, according to the report.

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