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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December 8, 2020

Natural Hazards Newsletter - Inaugural Issue - Vol. 1 | Issue 2021-Winter

We introduce the USGS Natural Hazards newsletter. In this issue: A new geonarrative about the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake, Potential landslide in Alaska, Subduction Zone Science, Post-wildfire debris flow assessments, new @USGS_Quakes Twitter account, Mapping faults in Puerto Rico, Coastal Change Top Story, Photo Round Up and more!

Date published: October 22, 2020

Building SZ4D: A Town Hall Discussion and Workshop for a Research Initiative on Subduction Processes and Geohazards

SZ4D is a new initiative in the U.S. research community to study subduction zones through both space and time, with a focus on the fundamental processes underlying geologic hazards such as great earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcanic eruptions.

Date published: October 13, 2020

ShakeOut 2020: Staying Safe When the Ground Starts to Rumble

When the ground shakes, what do you do? ShakeOut 2020:  Drop, Cover, and Hold On!


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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: 2020

Localized fluid discharge by tensile cracking during the post-seismic period in subduction zones

It is thought that extensional structures (extensional cracks and normal faults) generated during the post-seismic period create fluid pathways that enhance the drainage of the subducting plate interface, thus reducing the pore pressure and increasing fault strength. However, it remains to be elucidated how much pore fluid pressure decreases by...

Otsubo, Makoto; Hardebeck, Jeanne L.; Miyakawa, Ayumu; Yamaguchi, Asuka; Kimura, Gaku

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Year Published: 2020

Segmentation and supercycles: A catalog of earthquake rupture patterns from the Sumatran Sunda Megathrust and other well-studied faults worldwide

After more than 100 years of earthquake research, earthquake forecasting, which relies on knowledge of past fault rupture patterns, has become the foundation for societal defense against seismic natural disasters. A concept that has come into focus more recently is that rupture segmentation and cyclicity can be complex, and that a characteristic...

Philibosian, Belle; Meltzner, Aron J.