Geologists have discovered two previously unknown earthquake faults -- and possibly a third -- near Bellingham, Washington. The scientists working for the U.S. Geological Survey believe the shallow faults are capable of spawning damaging tremors.
The team of geologists from California and western Washington had a hunch there would be active earthquake faults near the U.S.-Canada border. Similar faults run right under Seattle and Tacoma. So they started looking in earnest five years ago.
USGS researcher Brian Sherrod says sediment cores and seismic surveys reveal two roughly parallel faults cutting across the Whatcom County coastline and Puget Sound lowlands north of Bellingham. Sherrod says the area has been quiet lately, but for how much longer he can't say.
"We don't know when these earthquakes are going to happen. We don't know how big they going to be," Sherrod says. "But you could be looking at earthquakes anywhere from magnitude six to maybe even a magnitude seven that are pretty shallow in depth."
Sherrod says a release of seismic energy close to the surface puts buildings and people at greater risk. The evidence for the new faults is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.