When hazards hit: Building tools to better understand and respond to Pacific Northwest disasters

Fall/Winter 2023

Almost 20 years ago, a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated communities along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, including Sumatra, Indonesia and Thailand. Entire towns were inundated, and over 200,000 people died.

One of us (Abby) was living in the central Oregon town of Bend at the time, reading the horrific news and feeling falsely safe. It was easy to assume those kinds of disasters happened elsewhere, even though Bend’s beautiful scenery is ringed with volcanoes.

The other of us (Nancy) had moved to the Pacific Northwest only a year or so before, and had just experienced her first tiny temblor on the Oregon coast. Terrified, she simply froze in place, not yet indoctrinated into “Drop! Cover! Hold on!” culture.

The reality is, Oregon is home to many geologic hazards — earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis. Some of our most pristine places were once sites of catastrophic destruction. Crater Lake’s stunning water is the azure aftermath of the Mount Mazama eruption. The Sandy River once churned with volcanic ash from a late 1700s eruption of Mount Hood, thus inspiring the river’s name after Lewis and Clark attempted to cross the “quick Sand river” in 1805.

How can we live alongside these geohazards? In this issue, we explore new approaches to the science of Pacific Northwest geohazards and innovative ways people are empowering communities (especially historically excluded ones) to understand their own disaster risk.

We also have stories about Astrid Leitner’s explorations of the deepest reaches of the ocean and Kelsey Emard’s studies of the potential for two-way streets when it comes to climate change predictions and agriculture.

As always, thanks for reading.

Nancy Steinberg, Co-editor
Abby Metzger, Co-editor

After 15 years at Oregon State (nine with the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences), I have left the university for another opportunity with a global conservation organization. This issue of Strata will be my last, and I really can’t describe the joy of launching and continuing this magazine with my trusted colleague, Nancy Steinberg. We hatched the idea over Zoom, during the height of the pandemic, and somehow brought our vision to bear through masked editing sessions and backyard wordsmithing. With Nancy at the helm, you can expect more incredible stories from across the Earth sciences. Thank you for reading, and for indulging my love of longform writing!
-Abby Metzger

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