Large earthquake in British Columbia could trigger larger-than-expected tsunami: study

A new study questions whether current scientific models underestimate the potential size of tsunamis off the coast of British Columbia in the event of a large-scale earthquake.

Earthquake specialist John Cassidy says an oceanic plate off the coast of British Columbia moves a few centimeters toward Vancouver Island each year, and when that happens, sediment builds up.

“If you think of a bulldozer that goes through sand or soil, it pushes everything forward and piles things up,” he said. “[That’s] exactly the same as the oceanic plate.”

The study published in the journal Earth Science Reviews examines how these sediments would affect earthquakes in subduction zones around the world.


Southern British Columbia is located within the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which extends from northern Vancouver Island to northern California.

“What this study is saying is that not only will the tsunami be generated by the movement of the fault, but also potentially by the movement of the faults in the sediments that have been scraped over the years,” said Kate Moran, CEO of Ocean Networks. Canada.

“And so really, there could be higher waves being generated in various places around the planet,” she said.

A beach is pictured on Vancouver Island, British Columbia (CTV News)

Local experts say that while the study is an important reminder of tsunami risks, researchers here are unlikely to change their current predictions.

“It’s not something we would change our models or our risk estimates at this time because it’s one piece of a very complicated puzzle,” Cassidy said.

Still, the earthquake specialist says all the information on how to accurately predict what to expect from tsunamis can help protect people and property.

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