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Quake experts update outlook for ‘Really Big One’

1700 tsunami effect
A color-coded computer simulation from 2016 shows how researchers think tsunami waves propagated from a magnitude-9 Cascadia subduction zone earthquake in the year 1700. Scientists believe such quakes occur every 500 years or so on average. (NOAA / Pacific Tsunami Warning Center)

Earthquake experts say current building codes don’t reflect the riskiest features of the Seattle area’s geology — but the outlook for survivability looks a lot better if the Really Big One can just hold off for a few more years.

That’s the bottom line from a session focusing on Seattle’s seismic hazards, presented at ground zero today during the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. The session — titled “Is the Coast Toast?” — followed up on a 2015 New Yorker article that painted a grim picture of the possibilities, based on studies of the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia subduction zone.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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