With the East Coast buried in snow from a megastorm sparking our natural-disaster competitiveness, we on the Pacific Rim can counter with an ocean-crossing tsunami generated by a historic megathrust earthquake. The last one that erupted along the 600-mile-long fault of the Cascadia Subduction Zone in the Northwest was at 9 p.m. on Jan. 26 in the year 1700. Hopefully the next one won’t hit any time soon, but another is due every 300-500 years. So, we can thrill in the thought of that magnificent danger!

In fact, on Friday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center published a re-enactment of the massive waves in a model animation. Here’s the explanation from the Center’s YouTube page: By comparing the tree rings of dead trees with those still living they could tell when the last of these great earthquakes struck the region. The trees all died in the winter of 1699-1700 when the coasts of northern California, Oregon, and Washington suddenly dropped 1-2 m (3-6 ft.), flooding them with seawater. That much motion over such a large area requires a very large earthquake to explain it—perhaps as large as 9.2 magnitude, comparable to the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964. CONTINUE