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7.4.12: Role of the Canadian Government

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    6445
  • Overview

    The government of Canada, through the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), which is part of the Department of Natural Resources Canada, is responsible for virtually all earthquake monitoring in Canada as well as the collecting and archiving of earthquake data, routine analysis of data, and provision of earthquake information to the public. The GSC is responsible for earthquake research and the production of earthquake hazard maps for use in the National Building Code.

     

    The first seismograph (one of the first in the world) was built in Victoria in 1898, recording its first earthquake eight days later. This seismograph was operated by Francis Denison of the Meteorological Service of Canada, who recorded and described the M 7 earthquake on December 6, 1918, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Denison built and installed additional seismographs. In 1939, responsibility for seismograph stations was transferred to the federal Department of Mines and Resources. An earthquake of M 7.3 on June 23, 1946, and Canada’s largest historical earthquake of M 8.1 off the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1949 led to the transfer of seismologist W. G. Milne from Ottawa to the west coast. Milne established a seismograph network and began publishing catalogs of earthquakes. His work led to Canada’s first seismic zoning map, incorporated into the National Building Code in 1970.

     

    In 1975, digital recording of seismic data began, with signals telemetered to the Victoria Geophysical Observatory. Studies of crustal deformation on Vancouver Island began at about that time, and the number of strong-motion accelerographs in Canada increased to forty-five, with twenty-six in western Canada. In 1976, the Pacific Geoscience Centre (PGC) was established, joining earth scientists with the Victoria Geophysical Observatory and the west coast marine geology unit of the Geological Survey of Canada. The PGC was moved to its present site in Sidney, north of Victoria, in 1978.

     

    Earthquake research is centered in the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), with offices in Ottawa and at the PGC in Sidney. Coincidentally, Ottawa is also in a seismically active region, although southwest British Columbia is clearly the most seismically hazardous part of Canada. The GSC maintains the Canadian National Seismic Network with more than one hundred and twenty stations, including thirty three-component broadband stations. In the 1990s, the number of strong-motion accelerographs was increased to more than one hundred, with more than 60 operated by the GSC and fifty-eight by BC Hydro, which is, of course, particularly concerned with dam safety. In 1985, a new set of seismic hazard maps was incorporated into the National Building Code. The most recent set of hazard maps has been incorporated into the 2010 National Building Code.

     

    The first leveling surveys for crustal deformation were carried out on Vancouver Island in 1929 and 1930 by the Geodetic Survey of Canada. These lines were resurveyed after the 1946 earthquake, showing evidence of subsidence of up to eighty millimeters, probably due to the earthquake. Other deformation studies used tide-gauge data and high-precision measurements of Earth’s gravity. In 1991, a GPS station was set up as the first part of the Western Canada Deformation Array, now a network of nine stations in southwestern British Columbia. These geodetic studies have been a major contributor to our understanding of the Cascadia Subduction Zone and also led to the discovery of slow earthquakes on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, as discussed in Chapter 4.

     

    Paleoseismic studies have lagged behind, principally because no active surface-rupturing fault has yet been found in British Columbia, in large part due to dense vegetation and heavy rainfall. However, the Canadians have studied their own marsh deposits on Vancouver Island that subsided during subduction-zone earthquakes. The contribution the Canadians have made to a better understanding of the Cascadia Subduction Zone and crustal deformation is very large, considering that it has been made by a relatively small number of research scientists. The key to the success of the Canadian research program is the application of multidisciplinary techniques by scientists of varied backgrounds, all located at the PGC in Sidney and at GSC headquarters in Ottawa.

     

    The Canadian RADARSAT-2, launched in 2007, is one of the satellites providing radar interferometry data (Synthetic Aperture Radar), following RADARSAT-1, which was launched in 1995. It is operated for the Canadian Space Agency by MDA, which in 2014 produced a radar map of Canada.

     

    Earthquake preparedness and response are the responsibility of the provinces; in British Columbia, this is the Provincial Emergency Program. The federal government will assist (when called upon) through the Office of Critical Protection and Emergency Preparedness, the Canadian equivalent of FEMA. The Canadian counterpart of NSF is the Research Council of Canada. Active earthquake research is conducted at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and Carleton University; all work closely with the GSC.