In the tradition of girding against bygone debacles more than future threats, both due to their searing memory and their ease of study, considerable effort has been directed to reconstructing the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1811–1812 New Madrid earthquakes. The recurrence of these M7 to M8 events may well bring a costly and deadly toll. However, as earthquake cycles alternate between accumulation and release of strain energy, both regions may still be early on their journey to the next earthquake, while considerable and possibly greater danger lies elsewhere.

The Cascadia subduction zone, with its overlying landslide-salted and volcano-peppered...

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