Geography Paper on The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz’s

The Really Big One


Kathryn Schulz’s “The Really Big One” gives a hypothetical outcome of a 9.2 magnitude earthquake that is likely to hit North West of North America. There is a Faultline in this region referred to as the Cascadian subduction zone. The ocean place and the North America continental plate meet in this region. The damage likely to be caused by this earthquake is so immense that it can only be likened to the Tohoku earthquake in Japan that occurred in 2011, lasting more than 4 minutes at a magnitude of 9.0. The damage caused by the Tohoku earthquake cost $220 billion and 18,000 people perished. On top of that, it triggered the meltdown of Fukushima nuclear power plant rendering that place uninhabitable for several thousand years in the future.

The Cascadia subduction zone fault line is over 700 miles long, and that is a part of the reason why it is likely to result in the greatest catastrophe ever experienced in North America. There is a pressure mounting at the boundary of the two plates, and then there is a likelihood of the region giving way in the near future. If the whole region gives way, tremors will be experienced in the vast areas of the North Western part of the continent. This will destroy the infrastructure and homes of the residents. It will be followed shortly by a 700-mile-long tsunami wave that will bring even more destruction in the region. It is possible to escape alive from the tremors inland but not possible to survive the tsunami if it finds one in the low-lying areas.

The Vulnerabilities

            If the Cascadian subduction zone Faultline becomes active, the effect of this earthquake will be likened to a rupture. Nearly thirteen thousand people are projected to die in the earthquake and the tsunami that follows. Additionally, another twenty-seven thousand will be injured. More than a million people will be displaced and in need of shelter. A further two and a half million will be in need of food and water provisions. The likelihood of the earthquake taking place in the near future is one in three, and these odds are worrying. What is worse is the fact that there is little known about the earthquakes that have been caused by this fault line in the past. The only event that is in the record, passed down by word of mouth for seven generations places the last major earthquake in either 1699 or 1700, and it led to the destruction of vast settlements and forests whose evidence can be seen even today.

Risk reduction

            The risk of deaths and injuries can be reduced by the administration coming up with early warning systems to alert the population when the earthquake is likely to happen. The problem with this early warning system is that it can only alert people within a few minutes. Another measure is to ensure that all people are taught safety methods and techniques to apply when the disaster does take place. The buildings should be designed to make them withstand the tremors and the tsunami. However, the discovery of this fault line took place when it was already too late and most of the buildings in the area covered have not been designed to withstand earthquakes. This article makes me feel very worried about the safety of North Western part of North America. My plan in case this disaster happens is to stay as far away from the affected area as possible.