Skip to comments.Hollywood fantasy? Tidal wave disaster is just waiting to happen
Posted on 08/11/2004 5:57:52 PM PDT by pepsi_junkie
Scientist says governments are ignoring threat of a piece of rock as big as the Isle of Man crashing into the Atlantic
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Tuesday August 10, 2004
It has everything you could wish for in a cliche-ridden disaster movie. A beautiful volcanic island in the Atlantic is on the brink of catastrophic collapse, threatening to unleash giant waves that will wreak havoc around the globe within hours. And while scientists try in vain to make their concerns heard, the world's governments look the other way.
But yesterday a leading expert claimed the doom-laden scenario was not only real but was being almost completely ignored by people in power.
Bill McGuire, the director of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Centre at University College London, said a huge chunk of rock, roughly the size of the Isle of Man, was on the brink of breaking off the volcanic island of La Palma in the Canaries.
When - Professor McGuire says it is not a matter of if - the rock plunges into the ocean it will trigger giant waves called mega-tsunamis.
Travelling at speeds of up to 560mph, the huge walls of water will tear across the ocean and hit islands and continents, leaving a trail of destruction.
Mega-tsunami waves are much longer than the ones we are used to.
"When one of these comes in, it keeps on coming for 10 to 15 minutes," Prof McGuire said.
"It's like a huge wall of water that just keeps coming."
Computer models of the island's collapse show the first regions to be hit, with waves topping 100 metres (330ft), will be the neighbouring Canary Islands. Within a few hours the west coast of Africa will be battered with similar-sized waves.
Between nine and 12 hours after the island collapses, waves between 20 and 50 metres high will have crossed 4,000 miles of ocean to crash into the Caribbean islands and the eastern seaboard of the US and Canada.
The worst-hit will be harbours and estuaries, which will channel the waves inland. The loss of life and destruction to property will probably be immense, according to Prof McGuire.
Britain would not escape entirely, he added. Waves of around 10 metres are likely to strike the south coast four to five hours after the island collapses, causing damage to seaside resorts and ports.
Such devastating natural disasters are rare, occurring on average every 10,000 years. But La Palma could collapse much sooner than that. "The thing about La Palma is we know it's on the move now," Prof McGuire said.
The island came to the attention of scientists in 1949 when its volcano, Cumbre Vieja, erupted, causing a huge chunk of its western flank to drop four metres into the ocean. Scientists believe the chunk of land is still slipping slowly into the water, and say another eruption is likely to make the entire western flank collapse. "When it goes, it will likely collapse in around 90 seconds," Prof McGuire said.
Despite the potential scale of the threat, little is being done to monitor the geological activity of La Palma. Only a few seismometers have been set up on the precarious western flank of the island, which do not provide enough information to predict when another eruption might occur.
"It's really a worrying situation," Prof McGuire said. "It will almost certainly go during an eruption. The problem is that with just a few seismometers on the island, we may not get the notice we need."
The scientist called for an international effort to install more sophisticated sensors on the island, as well as global positioning satellite units to detect how quickly the land mass was falling into the ocean. "We need to have better monitoring so we know when an eruption is about to happen," he said. Such a system could cost as little as a few hundred thousand dollars.
"The US government must be aware of the La Palma threat. They should certainly be worried, and so should the island states in the Caribbean that will really bear the brunt of a collapse.
"They're not taking it seriously. Governments change every four to five years and generally they're not interested in these things."
Even with new monitoring equipment in place, La Palma presents a difficult problem for those charged with mitigating against natural disasters.
Little can be done to protect against the waves produced when La Palma collapses. Barriers would not be able to sustain the battering, and breaking the island apart before it collapses is either too dangerous or time-consuming.
New sensors could warn of an impending eruption two weeks in advance. But no one knows whether the island will collapse during the next eruption, or in an eruption that will not happen for centuries.
Ordering mass evacuations would have a huge financial impact that could cause resentment if it turned out to be a false alarm. The disaster could affect up to 100 million people from the coast of Africa to the Canary islands and the east coast of North America.
"The future president of the US has got to make a call at some point, that when La Palma erupts, what is he going to do?" Prof McGuire said.
"Is he going to evacuate all the major cities on the east coast? If he gets it wrong, nobody's ever going to pay attention again and he'll be out of a job."
The question I have is what does this fellow expect us to do about it? I mean, installing sensors so we have two week notice is great, but then what?
Head for the hills, Wilmington is a good target.
A number of scientists have torn apart the various calculations, stating the projected wave height is far too high, etc., but of course, since that's not exciting and scary, it's never made the popular press.
I'm on the West Coast. I'll trade a tsunami for all of the illegal aliens in California. That is the bigger disaster.
Why, he's going to get all his Saudi friends out of the country before they can be questioned, right?
At least, that's what I heard.
I should add that he would wait idly by for seven minutes, first.
Renounce your citizenship, move to Mexico and then sneak back in across the border.
You will get free health care, your kids will go to school free and you can get a driver's license.
Goodby left coast when that happens.
Laws of nature, we can do a thing about it, why worry?
On the other hand, if my house is suddenly beachfront, I'm talking a million dollar property value increase! Sweet!
Hey boomop, long time no "see"! I cant head for Wilmington, I have my master plan to buy a crappy hell hole bar in Camden NJ and wait for Philly to be dumb enough to pass a "no smoking in bars" law...cha ching!
Yeah, it doesn't sound right. At 540mph a wave 150 meters high that "keeps coming" for 15 minutes would be 140 miles long (deep) have a mass far far far exceeding that of the fallen island.
Women and minorities hardest hit.
I was puzzled at first until I noticed a new one with Tsunami written on it.
I'll trade a tsunami for all of the illegal aliens in California.
Yeah! It'll wash off all the ... errr ... compost materials?
If it will not happen for decades or centuries, there is plenty of time to break the island up. There is also time to double check this guy's math.
Do what they do to prevent avalanches, blow up small sections at a time----but then I'm on some potential beach front property here in Kansas....
Drop explosives in water, detonate at the proper time, send the tidal wave back to EUrope.
This is "Pay Attention To Me NOW!" crap. See:
by a professor in Hawaii who took this scare story apart. He agreed with an estimate of a worst-case scenario of about a one-meter high wave at the U.S. & Brazilian coast.
"Full Navier-Stokes modeling brings the maximum expected tsunami wave amplitude off the U.S. east coast to about one meter. Even with shoaling effects, a tsunami from a La Palma slide would still be of concern but does not present an unmanageable threat or a significant far field hazard."
mostly a self-ping... I'm not at home, and will have to visit here when I am.
Heck, I've seen storm generated surf that dwarfs the recalc of a few meters. Even the worst case for the E.Coast at 20m is, as many surfers know, is not unheard of in a number of areas. Although it would cause plenty of damage in areas that do not routinely get big waves.
MORE PROOF OF GLOBAL WARMING!
I'm flattered that you think of me when you self-ping.
Does this mean you are at home now?
Note: this topic is from 8/11/2004.