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Originally published May 24, 2010 at 7:57 PM | Page modified May 25, 2010 at 9:10 AM

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Geologist forecasts undersea Northwest quake in 50 years

An Oregon marine geologist forecasts a 37 percent chance of a major earthquake in the next 50 years in an undersea area that stretches from Newport, Ore., to Northern California.

An Oregon marine geologist forecasts a 37 percent chance of a major earthquake in the next 50 years in an undersea area that stretches from Newport, Ore., to Northern California.

Chris Goldfinger, of Oregon State University, says in an analysis released Monday that a second area off the coast of Northern Oregon, Washington and Vancouver Island has about a 10 to 15 percent chance of producing a huge earthquake during the next half century.

"It's not a question of if a major earthquake will strike," Goldfinger said in a statement released Monday by Oregon State University. "It is a matter of when. And the 'when' is looking like it might not be that far in the future."

Goldfinger said the offshore fault area known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone has at least four segments, and that the probability of earthquake activity differs by segment.

The last major earthquake to hit the subduction zone occurred in January 1700. It triggered a 30-foot tsunami.

Studies of coastal estuaries and land formations show that temblor caused major changes to the Northwest coast, according to Goldfinger.

Goldfinger said a future Northwest earthquake could meet or exceed in magnitude the 8.8 quake that struck Chile earlier in February, tearing up highways, collapsing bridges and damaging or crumbling buildings.

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