About the Class

The Impacts of PNW Earthquakes
We continue to refine our understanding of past and future earthquakes in the PNW. Deep earthquakes (like the Nisqually quake 20 years ago) due to their frequency, and crustal earthquakes due to their potential severity, dominate the earthquake hazard in the Puget Sound region but what of the potential for the "Big One," a magnitude 9 (M9) scale quake and tsunami on the Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) fault?

Geoscientists have assembled an impressive 10,000 year apparent geologic history of 19 great earthquakes from the CSZ. Some controversies remain such as how many M8 events fill the gaps between the full rupture M9 quakes that occur with a ~500 year average interval between them. UW, USGS, and other scientists’ research projects have produced results to help answer many key questions such as: How will the deep Tacoma, Seattle, Everett, and Bellingham sedimentary basins affect ground motions produced by the next CSZ earthquake? How will resulting ground motions impact our tall buildings? How can new research initiatives and planning help us understand how we can reduce the risk of catastrophic losses in our next great Cascadia Subduction Zone Quake?

The ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System Rolls out Across the West Coast
Ten years ago this March 11th, the magnitude 9.0+ Tohoku, Japan great earthquake and tsunami resulted in the loss of almost 20 thousand lives and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Many lives were saved in Japan and losses from shaking limited by the successful earthquake early warning delivered to vulnerable populations and organizations.

UW, UC Berkeley, Cal Tech and the USGS has developed and deployed the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System from the Mexico to the Canadian borders. Our Cascadia subduction zone could produce the next catastrophic earthquake on the planet. Using ShakeAlert to trigger pre-planned actions can result in a final "mitigation minute" to save lives and reduce losses. What could you do with 30 seconds to over a minute of warning that strong shaking is on the way? Many regional utilities, and now schools, have integrated ShakeAlert into automated systems. Oregon is scheduled to roll out public alerting in mid-March, and plans are in place for Washington to begin public alerting in May via cell phone apps and WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) messaging. We will review how the system works and what is being done with it in Washington state.


Recently, Bill has been touring the PNW introducing the ShakeAlert, West Coast Earthquake Early Warning Project (EEW) to businesses, utilities and public agencies as the Washington State ShakeAlert Coordinator. Bill also serves on a number of NGO boards including CPARM (Contingency Planners and Recovery Managers), and he is a founding member and current Vice President of CREW (the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup). Previous to his post at the University of Washington, Bill was involved in earthquake engineering research at the Earthquake Engineering Research Center (EERC) at UC Berkeley

Among other research activities and projects, he has lead the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program NanTroSEIZE project - the largest sustained scientific drilling project - for 15 years. He leads a national effort on planning future research initiatives in subduction zone science known as SZ4D. Tobin was recently awarded the Paul G. Silver Award for Outstanding Service by the American Geophysical Union.

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