Subduction Zone Science


Most of the world’s earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions are caused by the continuous motions of the many tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s outer shell. The most powerful of these natural hazards occur in subduction zones, where two plates collide and one is thrust beneath another.

Reducing Risk Where Tectonic Plates Collide—Fact Sheet & Science Plan

Reducing Risk Where Tectonic Plates Collide—Fact Sheet & Science Plan

The USGS Science Plan, “Reducing Risk Where Tectonic Plates Collide” is a blueprint for building the crucial scientific foundation needed to inform the policies and practices that can make our Nation more resilient to subduction zone-related hazards.

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Introduction to Subduction Zones

Introduction to Subduction Zones

What is a subduction zone? What makes subduction zones so hazardous? The most powerful earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and landslides occur in subduction zones where tectonic plates collide and one plate is thrust beneath another.

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Date published: September 29, 2021

Opportunity to Provide Feedback for SZ4D Program

To those interested in USGS SZS and the SZ4D Initiative (Subduction Zones in Four Dimensions)...

Date published: March 9, 2021

Unlocking plate motions of the Cascadia subduction zone with seafloor geodesy

Seeking understanding of the fundamental constraints on plate motions, rates of convergence, and shallow strain accumulation across one of the United States’ most hazardous fault zones.

Date published: February 22, 2021

PCMSC scientists invited to present at the National Seismic Hazard Map Workshop

USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center research geologist Jenna Hill to present recent offshore work on the Cascadia Subduction Zone.


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Year Published: 2021

Toward an integrative geological and geophysical view of Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes

The Cascadia subduction zone (CSZ) is an exceptional geologic environment for recording evidence of land level changes, tsunamis, and ground motion that reveals at least 19 great megathrust earthquakes over the past 10 kyr. Such earthquakes are among the most impactful natural hazards on Earth, transcend national boundaries, and can have global...

Walton, Maureen A. L.; Staisch, Lydia M.; Dura, Tina; Pearl, Jessie Kathleen; Sherrod, Brian; Gomberg, Joan S.; Engelhart, Simon E.; Trehu, Anne; Watt, Janet; Perkins, Jonathan P; Witter, Robert C.; Bartlow, Noel; Goldfinger, Chris; Kelsey, Harvey; Morey, Ann; Sahakian, Valerie J.; Tobin, Harold; Wang, Kelin; Wells, Ray; Wirth, Erin

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Year Published: 2021

In‐situ mass balance estimates offshore Costa Rica

The Costa Rican convergent margin has been considered a type erosive margin, with erosional models suggesting average losses up to −153 km3/km/m.y. However, three‐dimensional (3D) seismic reflection and Integrated Ocean Drilling Program data collected offshore the Osa Peninsula images accretionary structures and vertical motions that conflict...

Edwards, Joel; Kluesner, Jared; Silver, Eli; Lauer, Rachel; Bangs, Nathan; Boston, Brian

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Year Published: 2021

Systematic characterization of morphotectonic variability along the Cascadia convergent margin: Implications for shallow megathrust behavior and tsunami hazards

Studies of recent destructive megathrust earth­quakes and tsunamis along subduction margins in Japan, Sumatra, and Chile have linked forearc mor­phology and structure to megathrust behavior. This connection is based on the idea that spatial varia­tions in the frictional behavior of the megathrust influence the tectono-morphological evolution of...

Watt, Janet; Brothers, Daniel