Skip to comments.Scientists: Volcano Could Swamp U.S. with Mega-Tsunami (And possibly strand dolphins miles inland)
Posted on 01/05/2005 6:32:35 AM PST by presidio9
A wall of water up to 55 yards high crashing into the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, flattening everything in its path -- not a Hollywood movie but a dire prophecy by some British and U.S. academics.
As the international community struggles to aid victims of last month's devastating tsunami in southern Asia, scientists warn an eruption of a volcano in Spain's Canary Islands could unleash a "mega-tsunami" larger than any in recorded history.
According to their controversial study, an explosion of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma could send a chunk of rock twice the size of the Isle of Wight into the Atlantic at up to 220 miles an hour.
Many experts believe the risk of "mega-tsunamis" from such a massive landslide on La Palma has been hugely overstated.
But in the study's scenario, energy released would equal the electricity consumption of the United States for six months, sending gigantic tidal waves across the Atlantic at the speed of a jet plane.
Devastation in the United States would reach trillions of dollars with tens of millions of lives at risk. Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, Brazil, the Caribbean and West Africa would also be swamped by giant waves.
"It may occur in the next eruption, which could be next year, or ... it may be 10 eruptions down the line," said Bill McGuire of Britain's Benfield Hazard Research Center.
Cumbre Vieja, which last exploded in 1971, typically erupts at intervals of between 20 and 200 years.
"We just don't know when it will happen, but are people prepared to take the risk after the Indian Ocean events?" McGuire said, calling for a program to monitor the slide in Cumbre Vieja's flank.
"We need to get people out in advance of the collapse itself. Once the collapse has happened, the Caribbean would have 9 hours, the U.S. 6 to 12 hours to evacuate tens of millions of people," he said.
Other experts say such predictions about La Palma or the Hawaiian volcano of Kilauea are grossly exaggerated.
The Tsunami Society, an international association of experts, dismisses such theories as "scaremongering." It argues Cumbre Vieja would not collapse in a single block and the wave generated would be much smaller.
"We are talking about thousands of years in the future. Anything could happen. An asteroid could also fall on earth," George Pararas-Carayannis, founder of the Tsunami Society, said.
Many wave experts believe tsunami from abrupt landslides dissipate more quickly than those generated by powerful earthquakes, like the Dec. 26 quake off Indonesia which stretched thousands of miles along the ocean floor.
Charles Mader, editor of the Science of Tsunami Hazards journal and an expert on wave modeling, predicts that even in the event of a massive landslide on La Palma the tsunami reaching North America would be no more than 1 meter high.
But McGuire stands by the wave modeling for the La Palma tsunami, carried out by Steven Ward of the University of California.
As the world reels from the Indian Ocean disaster, which killed more than 150,000 people, oceanographers and geologists agree the threat of tsunamis has been underestimated.
"It would not surprise me at all if tomorrow we saw another tsunami like this," said Pararas-Carayannis, pointing to faults off Portugal, Puerto Rico and Peru as possible risks.
For McGuire, a warning system in the Indian Ocean could have completely prevented loss of life in Sri Lanka and India from south Asian tsunami, as in most cases people would only have had to travel 1 kilometer inland to avoid the waves.
He ranks tsunami risk as second only to global warming in the hazards facing the planet.
"With coastlines massively built up now, particularly in developing countries, tsunami are a big problem because, unlike earthquakes, they transmit death and destruction across entire oceans," he said.
Here's hopin', eh Rooters?
It would have to be a very powerful explosion.
Well, at least they're mentioning the many scientists that disagree with the megatsunami scenario, now.
That would be one way to get the UN out of the US
Funny, the title mentions scientists, yet McGuire is the only person cited as a proponent of this doomsday scenario. This statement makes me question his credibility.
BTW, one day a giant earthquake will cause everythin east of the San Andreas fault to sink into the Atlantic.
Credibility vanishing act...
The scientists must be slipping..they forgot to add "It's Bush's fault!"..
The sky is falling, the sky is falling
This was on the news the other night. It makes sense that a landslide tsunami would be larger than an earthquake tsunami, but the chunk of land would have to be MASSIVE to trigger one.
The graphics they used on the news were pretty cool.
I live 400 ft above sea level near a hill that is another 300 ft. I'm cool. Beach Front Property.
I had no idea Flipper visited New Mexico. Wasn't that a red state?
Cats and Dogs living together, total anarchy!!!!
Plus, they happen CONSTANTLY, so we should not be thinking about anything else but the possiblity of huge tidal waves that are poised to strike Manhattan tomorrow.
Until then....masticate, expectorate and speculate.
Tsunami and global warming bracketed........that tells us everything we need to know about this 'junk' scientist.
I wonder what he ranks third. Oil drilling?
"typically erupts at intervals of between 20 and 200 years"
Well, at least he narrowed it down, so we can be prepared
Actually the island is already split and sperating according to a special that was on TV last year. All it would take would be for the volcano to activate in a certain area to make the break slide off --- this will cause the tsunami.
If you look at the undersea maps around Hawaii, you will see huge areas that were cause by these massive landslide that in turn cause mega-tsunamis.
A scientist claiming it will take a thousand years for the island to maybe fall is probably the same scientist that would have predicted no tsunamis will happen in 2004 on december 23 if asked.
PS --- On december 24 2004 an asteroid came UNDER the orbit of our man-made satellites - almost immediately there was a massive earthquake 8.4 opposite of its approach near Australia, then came the series of quakes following up and around the tectonic plate line. ---- is Krakatoa next? Then .... ???
Who are currently seeking funds to do a more in-depth study of...
This is considered a crock by many geologists and tsunami experts.
TV documentaries, either science or history, are riddled with inaccuracies or biased viewpoints.
Umm.....there was no tsunami on December 23rd.
And any knowledgeable scientist asked to predict a tsunami on a specific date would simply say that's not possible.
Our problem is not earthquakes or ocean surges, its so called experts who love to see the names and/or theories in print.
You got it!!
...no tsunamis will happen in 2004 on december 23 if asked.
My poor choice of word placement -- it was correct, but confusing.
it should have read no tsunamis will happen in 2004 if asked on december 23.
it was my dyslexia's fault ... yeah ... that's why! ;>)
EVALUATION OF THE THREAT OF MEGA TSUNAMI GENERATION FROM POSTULATED MASSIVE SLOPE FAILURES OF ISLAND STRATOVOLCANOES ON LA PALMA, CANARY ISLANDS, AND ON THE ISLAND OF HAWAII
Paper published in Science of Tsunami Hazards, Vol 20, No.5, pages 251-277, 2002. (Modified html format)
Original may be downloaded as pdf document from
Massive flank failures of island stratovolcanoes are extremely rare phenomena and none have occurred within recorded history. Recent numerical modeling studies, forecasting mega tsunami generation from postulated, massive slope failures of Cumbre Vieja in La Palma, Canary Islands, and Kilauea, in Hawaii, have been based on incorrect assumptions of volcanic island slope instability, source dimensions, speed of failure and tsunami coupling mechanisms. Incorrect input parameters and treatment of wave energy propagation and dispersion, have led to overestimates of tsunami far field effects. Inappropriate media attention and publicity to such probabilistic results have created unnecessary anxiety that mega tsunamis may be imminent and may devastate densely populated coastlines at locations distant from the source - in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The present study examines the assumptions and input parameters used by probabilistic numerical models and evaluates the threat of mega tsunami generation from flank failures of island stratovolcanoes. Based on geologic evidence and historic events, it concludes that massive flank collapses of Cumbre Vieja or Kilauea volcanoes are extremely unlikely to occur in the near geologic future. The flanks of these island stratovolcanoes will continue to slip aseismically, as in the past. Sudden slope failures can be expected to occur along faults paralleling rift zones, but these will occur in phases, over a period of time, and not necessarily as single, sudden, large-scale, massive collapses. Most of the failures will occur in the upper flanks of the volcanoes, above and below sea level, rather than at the basal decollement region on the ocean floor. The sudden flank failures of the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea in 1868 and 1975 and the resulting earthquakes generated only destructive local tsunamis with insignificant far field effects. Caldera collapses and large slope failures associated with volcanic explosions of Krakatau in 1883 and of Santorin in 1490 B.C., generated catastrophic local tsunamis, but no waves of significance at distant locations. Mega tsunami generation, even from the larger slope failures of island stratovolcanoes, is extremely unlikely to occur. Greater source dimensions and longer wave periods are required to generate tsunamis that can have significant, far field effects. The threat of mega tsunami generation from massive flank failures of island stratovolcanoes has been greatly overstated.
Remainder of paper at
This seems like a scenario where the ACLU would sue the volcano for killing dolphins.......
It's a wacky article, written for cheap attention.
Earthquakes, and therefore tsunamis, cannot be predicted.
If you asked any legitimate scientist on December 23rd if there would be any tsunami in the next 7 days, they'd say they have no idea.
Yeah, but it's so far away that by the time it got to the US it's height would be greatly diminished. And that means it would need to be an extra-powerful explosion in order to make a major impact on the US.
I also heard a scientist on TV say that it would take 9 hours to get here, because of the distance.
I'm in Orlando, and was reading an article about whether a tidal wave could impact the Florida coast. Of course, the answer is yes, but the article made it sound like it would not have a significant impact because the height of the wave is limited to approximately twice the depth of the surrounding water, and the waters around Florida are pretty shallow.
never saw this gem (on the right). Is it real? What a first class imebecil. Did he really get 40-something percent of the vote? They must not have seen this, either.
He lost his credibility right there.
Wouldn't the Mid-Atlantic Trench dissipate the enegy of the Tsunami the way tha the abyss protected Diego Garcia from last week's tsunami?
The main reason DG was spared is that it was south of the main part of the tsunami wave.
There's also no Mid-Atlantic Trench. There's a Mid-Atlantic RIDGE.
Accounts are spotty but the tsunami in the Carribean Islands and the East Coast was fairly substantial (but not huge) from the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake.
You'd think so.... Not that it means we have nothing to worry about, but it seems like the idea is overblown. As someone else mentioned, tidal waves can becaused by things other than earthquakes--for example meteorites. It doesn't happen very often, but it's a big ocean, and a significant meteor strike anywhere in it could cause a very powerful wave. It could happen in the middle of the ocean, or it could happen a few miles offshore.
"Anything could happen."
now that's impressive science!
Here's the Big Question: What countries will be sending us billions of dollars of aid to recover?
The same ones that sent us money after 9/11?
Look at the bright side: You wouldn't have to separate the tuna from the dolphin nets anymore... You could just walk up to the dolphin in shallow pools and club 'em in the head with a hammer. Mmmmm.... dolphin fillets fried in garlic butter!
He believes in global warming - that taints every other opinion he holds. Buh-bye.
These days I'm not saying anything is a crock where tsunamis are concerned.
Scare tactics....what the person should've added was, "I would be equally as un-surprised if it didn't happen for another thousand years."
Every now and then, Mother Nature reminds man how pitifully small he is. Those that advocate man's influence on the Earth as a whole (say, Global Warming?) are incredibly arrogant.
Its always something.
"The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" Just what are we supposed to do? Man is insignificant on this vast orb.