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Public Lecture Sneak Peek: Geohazards of the Aleutian Islands -- Great Earthquakes, Great Waves, and Great Volcanic Explosions!

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Detailed Description

To increase to increase public awareness during Native American Indian National Heritage Month, we will be discussing the anthropology of indigenous peoples in the Aleutian Islands and how continued scientific research can help future forecasting of mega-earthquake and transoceanic tsunami probabilities.


Public Domain.


Amelia: Hello and welcome to a sneak preview of our Western Region Evening Public Lecture for November 19th. 

I'm Amelia Barrales and today I have with me USGS Geophysicist Steve Kirby.

Hello Steve, and thank you for this sneak preview of your lecture. 

Steve:  Happy to be here, Amelia.

Amelia : November has been proclaimed "National American Indian Heritage Month", and to increase public awareness of this period of recognition you are giving a lecture entitled Geohazards of the Aleutian Islands --Great Earthquakes, Great Waves, and Great Volcanic Explosions!  What makes the Aleutian Islands such a dangerous part of the Pacific rim?

Steve: Just from its history and pre-history.  The Alaska/Aleutians subduction zone has had 4 of the 8 largest earthquakes in history, all of which raised huge tsunami waves.  The largest explosive eruption in the 20th century among volcanoes occurred at Katmai on the Alaskan Peninsula in 1912, and explosion that sent ash and other aerosols high into the atmosphere and cooled the Earth for over a year. There have also been 14 other giant prehistoric eruptions in the Aleutians and the Alaska Peninsula that have been documented by the USGS that have happened over the the last 10,000 years.  All told, this subduction zone is one of the top 3 in the world in terms of geohazards. In these days of interconnected economies and transportation, events in this still remote part of the world can have global impacts.

Amelia: For the Aleuts, how did they survive these geohazards that they have had to go through in their area?

Steve: That is a good question.  The Aleuts had one of the most advanced maritime cultures in the world. They were adaptive people in the world of not only harsh climate, but also strong ground shaking, giant tsunami waves, and frightening volcanic eruptions.  That they survived is testimony to their resiliency. 

Amelia: How does the continued scientific research help future forecasting of mega-earthquake and transoceanic tsunami probabilities? 

Steve: Research at sea and on land will give us the prehistoric chronology of occurrence of such events and allow us to establish the long-term probabilities about how often such events will occur in the future.  Research will also aid us in understanding how subduction systems really work.  The Aleutian subduction zone had been neglected scientifically for decades and we hope to change that soon. 

David and I are excited about telling this story about the Aleutian Islands at the public lecture.

Amelia: That's wonderful, we really look forward to hearing more about it.

If you are interested in learning more about this upcoming lecture and to view any of our previous lectures, please visit our USGS Evening Public Lecture Series website at His video will be available online on at the end of the month for viewing .  

Thank you for your interest in our Western Region Evening Public Lecture Series.  This a production of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Interior.

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