Oregon State University has deep research experience in the geosciences and the causes and effects of earthquakes and tsunamis. Our faculty experts are experienced in presenting this information to the public.



Earthquake Causes and History Return to menu

Chris Goldfinger, 541-737-2066; gold@coas.oregonstate.edu
Goldfinger is an OSU oceanographer and one of the world’s leading experts on subduction zone earthquakes. He can discuss the history of the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia Subduction Zone and compare it with the structures of Japan and the Indian Ocean region.

  • History of major earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest
  • Subduction zone earthquakes
  • Indonesia and Sumatra

Robert Yeats, 541-737-1226; yeatsr@geo.oregonstate.edu
Yeats, a professor emeritus of geosciences, was one of the first scientists to suggest that the Pacific Northwest may be due for a massive subduction zone earthquake and he spent much of his career outlining earthquakes risks for areas from southern California to Haiti.

  • Earthquake hazard evaluation
  • Fault lines near major cities along the West Coast of the U.S.
  • The Cascadia Subduction Zone

Scott Ashford, 541-737-4934; scott.ashford@oregonstate.edu
Ashford is head of OSU’s School of Civil & Construction Engineering and a leading international expert on geotechnical earthquake engineering. He can discuss ground-shaking, liequefaction, landslides and lateral spreading.

  • Earthquake magnitude
  • Cause and effect of liquefaction
  • Generation and effects of ground-shaking
  • Landslides and lateral spreading

John Nabelek, 541-737-2757; Nabelek@coas.oregonstate.edu
Nabelek studies global tectonic processes, including how large earthquakes are triggered, and has conducted research in Tibet, Nepal and other locations. He also can discuss the science of seismicity and techniques for analyzing earthquake sources.

  • Global tectonic processes and large earthquakes
  • The science of seismicity
  • Earthquakes in Tibet, Nepal and elsewhere in Asia

Bob Dziak, 541-867-0175; robert.p.dziak@noaa.gov
Dziak is a marine geologist who uses an array of hydrophones coordinated by the U.S. Navy to “listen” to undersea earthquakes and learn more about the large-scale and small-scale seismic activity of ocean regions around the world.

  • Earthquake “swarms” off Oregon.
  • Seismic activity in the world’s oceans
  • Earthquakes in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica



Earthquakes: Geologic Structure and Impacts Return to menu

Anne Trehu, 541-737-2655; trehu@coas.oregonstate.edu
Trehu directs the National Science Foundation-funded EarthScope national office, which coordinates research on the structure of the deep-Earth to provide scientists with a better understanding of the physical processes causing earthquakes and volcanoes.

  • Pacific and North American tectonic plate structures
  • Pacific Northwest seismology arrays
  • Crust and lithosphere of the Cascadia Subduction Zone

Chris Higgins, 541-737-8869, chris.higgins@oregonstate.edu
Higgins is a professor of structural engineering and Slayden Construction Faculty Fellow at OSU, where he is an expert on structural performance during earthquakes.

  • Building and bridge performance during earthquakes
  • Design of building and bridges to withstand earthquakes
  • Why structures collapse during earthquake

Tom Miller, 541-737-3322, millert@engr.orst.edu

Miller is a structural engineer and has performed research on the response of wood structures to seismic loadings.

  • Develop rapid screening techniques to evaluate building performance in earthquakes
  • Seismic evaluation of schools, colleges and critical facilities in Oregon

Rakesh Gupta, 541-737-4223; rakesh.gupta@oregonstate.edu
Gupta is a professor of wood science whose work focuses on creating wood structures that can better withstand nature’s violent forces, including earthquakes, hurricanes,  and wind storms. He also analyzes wooden structures that have been destroyed to ascertain the cause of their destruction.

  • Creating wood structures that can withstand earthquakes and other hazards
  • Analyzing the reason for collapse and/or destruction of wooden structures.

Andrew Meigs, 541-737-1214; meigsa@geo.oregonstate.edu
Meigs, a geoscientist who heads the geology program at OSU, studies structural geology and the geology of earthquakes, and has conducted research on faults in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Los Angeles basin and South America.

  • Structural geology
  • The geology of earthquakes
  • Tectonics and topography



Tsunamis Causes and History Return to menu

Harry Yeh, 541-737-8057 (or 541-737-4934); harry.yeh@oregonstate.edu
Yeh holds the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in Engineering at OSU, where he is a leading international expert on tsunamis. He can discuss the processes by which earthquakes trigger tsunamis, recent major events around the world, and tsunami hazard mitigation.

  • The mechanics of tsunamis
  • Major tsunamis around the world
  • Tsunami hazard mitigation

Solomon Yim, 541-737-6894 (or 541-737-4934); solomon.yim@oregonstate.edu
Yim is a professor of structural and ocean engineering and can discuss new efforts at constructing building, bridges and other structures that can withstand the forces of tsunamis. He is the interim director of the Hinsdale Wave Laboratory at OSU and its Tsunami Wave Basin.

  • The destructive power of tsunamis
  • Building more tsunami-resistant structures
  • Storm surge and earthquake impacts on ocean waves.

Dan Cox, 541-737-3631 (or 541-737-4934); dan.cox@oregonstate.edu
Cox is a professor of coastal and ocean engineering at OSU, where he studies the impact of tsunamis and ocean waves on coastal structures. He can discuss how tsunamis vary in “behavior” as the approach coastal areas, depending on terrain, and the resulting damage they may induce.

  • Design and performance of coastal structures, particularly during tsunamis
  • Effect of near-shore ocean terrain on tsunami “behavior”

Kathryn Higley, 541-737-0675 or kathryn.higley@oregonstate.edu

Higley is professor and chair of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics, and an expert on radiation health effects who can discuss the particular issue of radiation emissions from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant that was severely damaged during the March 11, 2011, subduction zone earthquake and tsunami in Japan.


Earthquake/Tsunami Preparedness and Public Education Return to menu

Patrick Corcoran, 541-325-8573; patrick.corcoran@oregonstate.edu
Corcoran is a coastal hazards outreach specialist for Oregon Sea Grant, based at OSU. In addition to his work with the NOAA Coastal Storms Program, Corcoran works with coastal community leaders on earthquake and tsunami preparation and education.

  • Community preparation for earthquakes and tsunamis
  • Community education for earthquakes and tsunamis
  • Effects of earthquakes, tsunamis and coastal storms on communities

Lori Cramer, 541-737-5382; lcramer@oregonstate.edu
Cramer is a sociologist who studies natural resource-dependent communities and how they are affected by social problems, environmental risks and other issues. She has looked at the impacts of nuclear waste and hazardous waste facilities on rural communities, and is studying the effects of recent tsunami warnings on vulnerable populations at the Oregon coast.

  • Natural resource-dependent and rural Oregon communities
  • Community education for earthquakes and tsunamis
  • Communication and education for vulnerable populations in rural areas during disasters


Earthquake and Tsunami-related Facilities and Programs at Oregon State University Return to menu

  • Oregon State University is home to one of the largest, most sophisticated tsunami research facilities in the world – the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory. The National Science Foundation-funded facility has been featured on news shows and documentaries for its research on the effects of tsunamis.
  • In 2007, the National Science Foundation awarded $1.6 million to OSU to establish the EarthScope national office. EarthScope is a nationwide program to explore the North American continent and better understand the physical processes that cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. http://oregonstate.edu/terra/2011/02/listening-post/
  • OSU operates one of the select group of seismic stations in the U.S. managed by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, or IRIS. It was featured in a recent issue of Terra magazine:  http://oregonstate.edu/terra/2011/02/listening-post/
  • A national sediment core repository, funded by the National Science Foundation and coordinated by OSU, has 14,000 meters of ocean sediment cores that offer clues to past earthquakes, tsunamis, and climate change triggers.
  • Scientists at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport utilize U.S. Navy hydrophones from an array called SOSUS (Sound Surveillance System) to listen for undersea earthquakes – as well as landslides, moving ice sheets and marine mammal vocalizations.
  • In OSU's Wood Innovation Center, researchers design and test earthquake-resistant structures, from residential framing to commercial product displays.
  • Engineers in OSU's Structural Engineering Laboratory test the ability of bridges to withstand wave and storm impacts. They have evaluated the survivability of causeways that cross coastal waters in Florida and the likelihood that bridge foundations on the Oregon Coast would be subject to tsunamis.



Earthquake and Tsunami-related News Releases from Oregon State University Return to menu


2012 - One-year Anniversary of the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami:

  • Some concerns have been expressed about dangers from radioactive contamination when debris from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami begin to wash up on U.S. and Canadian shores in late 2012. There may be some dangerous or toxic material in the debris, OSU experts say, but radiation is not an issue. http://bit.ly/wNR5T
  • Though 20,000 people died in the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, it could have been much worse. Education and preparation saved a lot of lives, an OSU expert says. But if the same disaster happens in Oregon, the survival rate won't approach 90 percent as it did in Japan - unless we do something about it. http://bit.ly/xVPwbf
  • Repercussions of last year’s subduction zone earthquake and tsunami in Japan are being felt in the Pacific Northwest, as experts and disaster managers better understand the enormous risks facing this region and plan for the challenges ahead. http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2012/feb/aftershocks-japan-disaster-being-felt-us-earthquake-planning
  • As the one-year anniversary of the devastating March 11, 2011, Japanese earthquake approaches, and debris from the ensuing tsunami moves closer to the West Coast, a group of Oregon agencies, university scientists, political staff, non-governmental organizations and others is preparing for its arrival. http://bit.ly/ADXjor


2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami:

The Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia Subduction Zone:

Tsunami Risk and Preparation

2011 New Zealand Earthquake

2010 Chilean Earthquake

2010 Haiti Earthquake

Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Samoan Earthquake



Other Resources: Return to menu