Stephany RunningHawk Johnson is helping advance earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest through the Cascadia Region Earthquake Science Center (CRESCENT)
The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to the looming threat of earthquakes. With the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) running along its coastline, the region faces the potential for devastating seismic events.
Subduction zones, such as the CSZ, are renowned for hosting the largest and most destructive earthquakes on the planet. The complex interplay of geological and geophysical factors within these zones gives rise to a wide range of cascading hazards, including tsunamis, landslides, and liquefaction. The CSZ has been a focal point for scientific investigation, leading to significant breakthroughs in earthquake physics and impact assessment. The proposed CRESCENT seeks to bring together a diverse community of researchers and stakeholders, leveraging existing knowledge and cutting-edge technologies to develop comprehensive models of earthquake systems.
But, thanks to a groundbreaking research initiative, the PNW is taking a significant step forward in earthquake preparedness. WSU College of Education faculty member Stephany RunningHawk Johnson is part of a team of researchers, fronted by the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, leading the Cascadia Region Earthquake Science Center (CRESCENT). It’s aim is clear: Consolidating decades of research data and developing a comprehensive understanding of subduction zone earthquakes.
The Need for a Dedicated Center
The existing body of research on earthquakes has predominantly focused on transform fault systems like the San Andreas fault. However, subduction zones operate under fundamentally different conditions and exhibit unique earthquake processes. The CSZ offers a distinct opportunity for studying these processes due to its low-angle geometry and vast seismogenic fault area. By establishing CRESCENT, researchers aim to bridge the gap in understanding subduction zones and make significant strides in earthquake science.
Regional Importance and the Call for Resilience
The Pacific Northwest region, spanning three states and two countries, faces a host of cascading hazards in the aftermath of a large earthquake. While public awareness of these risks has grown, the region’s earthquake culture is still developing. Challenges such as unreinforced masonry, evacuation distances, and fragile infrastructure pose unresolved issues that undermine public safety and resilience. The CRESCENT project recognizes the urgent need to address these challenges and ensure the region’s preparedness for future events.
Education and Workforce Development
A key aspect of CRESCENT’s mission is to cultivate a diverse future geoscience workforce. Recognizing the imperative of social justice, the center will collaborate with minority-serving institutions in the Pacific Northwest, national pedagogical institutions, and ancestral inhabitants to foster inclusivity in geoscience education. The center will also employ state-of-the-art methods, including data science, artificial intelligence, fiber-optic sensing, and high-rate geodesy, to train the next generation of researchers and practitioners in earthquake hazards.
Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement
CRESCENT aims to build strong partnerships with regional tribal nation organizations, federal, state, and local governments, agencies, utilities, civil organizations, and non-governmental organizations. These collaborations will ensure that the center’s research aligns with the interests and needs of stakeholders. By integrating the knowledge and expertise of various entities, CRESCENT strives to create a cohesive earthquake science community that works towards a common goal of enhancing resilience.
The establishment of the Cascadia Region Earthquake Science Center (CRESCENT) marks a significant milestone in earthquake preparedness for the Pacific Northwest. By consolidating research efforts, fostering collaboration, and addressing critical knowledge gaps, CRESCENT will drive advancements in subduction zone earthquake science. The center’s comprehensive approach, encompassing research, education, and stakeholder engagement, will not only benefit the region but also provide transferable knowledge applicable to other subduction zones globally. Through CRESCENT’s efforts, the Pacific Northwest can work towards a safer, more resilient future in the face of seismic events.
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