News from around the Pacific Northwest

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Cascadia: Where even the Oceans are Caffeinated

Lattes are washing out to sea. A new study has found elevated levels of caffeine at several sites in Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of Oregon. The study was conducted by Portland State University master’s student Zoe Rodriguez del Rey and her faculty adviser Elise Granek, assistant professor of Environmental Science and Management, in collaboration with Steve Sylvester of Washington State University, Vancouver. Researchers aren’t quite sure the when or why of it, and early thinking that the caffeinated areas were related to waste water treatment plants has actually turned out not to be the case. So pour yourself a double latte and stay tuned for further updates!

Northern Lights Visible throughout the Northwest

Most of Mother Nature’s shows in the month of July were focused around incredible lightning and thunder displays, but beginning in the early morning of Sunday July 15th, the skies lit up with the Northern Lights. Sightings were reported in Lyman, Friday Harbor, Sahale Glacier and even further south, with a display caught over Sparks Lake in central Oregon. The best time for viewing took place during midnight and 1:30am, and according to, at first the solar storm appeared weaker than forecast, but a second wave later in the night added some power to the solar storm and the aurora energized, with sightings as far south as Oregon and California.

1st Comprehensive Earthquake Study on the Cascadia Subduction Zone

The most comprehensive study of earthquake history off the Pacific Northwest coast has found that the Cascadian Subduction Zone has been trying to break off from the United States both geologically and politically, much longer and with greater force than earlier anticipated. The 13 year study, done by scientists at Oregon State University analyzed clues beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean such as the the movement of mud, sand, sediment and fine particles, trying to go back 10,000 years. That history shows 19 huge earthquakes along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, typically 8.7 to 9.2 on the Richter scale.

Chris Goldfinger, a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atospheric Sciencies, believes there is a 40 percent chance of a major, Japan-sized earthquake in the next 50 years, but more likely in the southern end of the subduction zone, meaning Oregon. “Major earthquakes tend to strike more frequently along the southern end – every 240 years or so – and it has been longer than that since it last happened,” writes Goldfinger. “The clock is ticking on when a major earthquake will strike the zone,” wrote a co-author of the study. If there is no big quake by 2060, we’ll have exceeded 85 percent of all known intervals of earthquake recurrence in the last 10,000 years, he concluded.


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