Review of The Big One: The Cascadia Earthquakes and the Science of Saving Lives

The Big One: The Cascadia Earthquakes and the Science of Saving Lives [Scientists in the Field]
by Elizabeth Rusch
Intermediate, Middle School    Houghton    80 pp.    g
8/20    978-0-544-88904-0    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-33579-5    $9.99

Off the Pacific Northwest coast, running about six hundred miles from British Columbia to Northern California, lies the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where “a heavier plate pushes under a lighter one.” Such a situation signals the frequent occurrence of earthquakes, but, in a scientific mystery not unlocked until the waning years of the twentieth century, this area had no record of earthquakes. Then a group of scientific Sherlocks begin looking into the anomaly as they tried to reconcile the historical record with what plate tectonic hypotheses suggested. Rusch links the findings from many disparate disciplines — geology, oceanography, paleoseismology, folkloristics — individuals studied in order to determine if there were any records of ancient enormous quakes. By combining their research, scientists uncovered evidence of quakes in much earlier times, allowing them to predict that a devastating megaquake — one lasting for minutes rather than seconds and recording a magnitude of over 8.0 — would occur, perhaps in the next fifty years. The final step Rusch outlines is preparedness: what populations living in the area should do in case of a Cascadia earthquake. Here she focuses on individual and community measures, again showing the power of combining more than one approach to study a problem. Appended with a bibliography, suggestions for further reading and research, a glossary, and an index.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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