Portland is situated in a shallow, impeccable basin facing northwest where it meets the rugged terrain of the Coast Range. These faults tend to experience both pressure and sideways movement due to a combination of tectonic forces. Long-range bug movements often leave clear linear marks in the landscape, although the surprising humidity and vegetation of this area darken things up quite well. However, some of these flaws can be seen in the landscape once you know what they will look like.
This includes the Jalis Creek Fault 35 kilometers west of Portland. A team from Portland State University led by Alison Hurst set out to dig a small trench over this flaw to investigate its history. Since it can be seen in the landscape it has been thought to be an active insect, but little is known about this. By drilling above the surface fault, sediment and soil patterns can reveal movement during past earthquakes. Find a few bits of organic material in there, and the dating can tell you the carbon when this happened.
Read between the lines
After digging over the fault, several layers of land jumped towards the researchers. The change of colors and sediment content highlighted unusual patterns, such as an upper layer of soil buried under the existing topsoil. This can happen when a fault motion opens up an area filled with sediment. One of the layers also contained a mixture of cobblestones that appeared to have been shaken by the earthquake.
Zoom in /. Here is the trench wall over the rift with the stratification relationships identified by the researchers.
There were also subtle vertical imperfections that disturbed these layers. Hence the geological conclusion. If the error penetrates one layer but stops at the base of the next layer, that top layer should be added after this error occurs. Using these spatial relationships, the researchers identified three different earthquakes. The carbon dating of blocks of forest coal between each of these earthquakes places them about 1,000 years ago, 4,200 years ago, and 8,800 years ago. On average, there were about 4,000 years between these large earthquakes.
The fault also appears to have moved a meter during the earthquake. All this roughly agrees with estimates based on things like horizontal displacement in fluxes beyond the error. These estimates assume an average earthquake of about 3,000 years and a movement of 1.7 meters. If the 73-kilometer fault moved completely during one of these earthquakes, it would have a magnitude of 7.1-7.4. It is possible in each case to convey only parts of the error, resulting in a smaller volume. This can be tested by digging more trenches like this and looking for differences between them.
The idea here is that this rift is very active and capable of creating a magnitude 7 earthquake. This is not the only drawback in this area. Major earthquakes can be so rare that the real risk is greater than the events we have experienced and we must discover and learn from them in FrontStory. For Portland, this includes more than just the great marine earthquake that worries everyone.
Bulletin of the American Seismological Society, 2020. DOI: 10.1785 / 0120190291 (via DOIs).
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