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UVic monitoring could’ve warned Victoria about Tofino earthquake

Ocean Networks Canada ocean and land sensors registered the 4.8-magnitude quake
Ocean Networks Canada sensors could’ve given recipients in Victoria and Vancouver 35 seconds notice about a Nov. 25 earthquake near Tofino about seismic waves reaching the two cities. (Photo courtesy of Ocean Networks Canada)

A University of Victoria initiative is touting how its monitoring system could’ve given notice to communities up to 250 kilometres away after a 4.8-magnitude earthquake struck northwest of Tofino on Nov. 25.

Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) says its network of ocean and land sensors could’ve provided a 35-second alert to Victoria and Vancouver before damaging seismic waves reached the respective city centres.

ONC is working to launch the notification system so critical infrastructure operators will be able to activate safety and emergency response measures and notify those in harm’s way.

Its monitoring network includes real-time sensors located on land and in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where the Juan de Fuca and North American tectonic plates converge off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

READ: 4.8-magnitude earthquake hits close to Tofino, felt as far as Courtenay

Kate Moran, ONC president and chief executive officer, said in a news release that last month’s earthquake demonstrated the value of the monitoring systems, given how safety and emergency measures could be activated.

“Even a few seconds of warning enables protective and preventive measures, such as triggering trains to slow down, pausing surgeries, stopping bridge and tunnel traffic and diverting arrivals for incoming air traffic,” she said. “Fortunately, this Tofino earthquake was small enough to not cause damage, but having the same 35 seconds of warning in the case of a major shake would save lives and vital infrastructure.”

Earthquakes release energy through seismic waves, with primary “P” waves and travelling faster than “S” waves, which ONC said cause damaging shaking. ONC’s monitoring systems detect the P-waves and would deliver alerts before the S-waves arrive.

If authorities in downtown Victoria or BC Place in Vancouver were connected to the monitoring system, they would’ve received a 35-second warning before the S-waves travelled 230 kilometres from the earthquake epicentre. Depending on the location, ONC said the Earthquake Early Warning system could provide up to 90 seconds of advance notice can to future British Columbia notification recipients.

READ: Research off Vancouver Island looks to uncover what makes megathrust earthquakes tick


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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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