REAL SCIENCE: Tsunami risks are associated with plate tectonics paired with the location of population.
Every so often, a climate crisis headline is so ridiculous, it has me rolling on the floor in laughter.
This week, I came across a hilarious one: Climate change could trigger gigantic deadly tsunamis from Antarctica, new study warns.
By drilling into sediment cores hundreds of feet beneath the seafloor in Antarctica, scientists discovered that during previous periods of global warming — 3 million and 15 million years ago — loose sediment layers formed and slipped to send massive tsunami waves racing to the shores of South America, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
And as climate change heats the oceans, the researchers think there’s a possibility these tsunamis could be unleashed once more. Their findings were published May 18 in the journal Nature Communications.
Of course, more fund and study is needed…because these tsunamis would be killers.
“Submarine landslides are a major geohazard with the potential to trigger tsunamis that can lead to huge loss of life. The landslides can also destroy infrastructure including subsea cables, meaning future such events would create a wide range of economic and social impacts,” study co-author Jenny Gales said.
“Our findings highlight how we urgently need to enhance our understanding of how global climate change might influence the stability of these regions and potential for future tsunamis,” Dr Gales said.
I would like to take a moment from the climate crisis drama to review the most recent tsunamis that were true killer, and review what triggered the massive waves.
The infamous Tohoku Earthquake and Tsumani in 2011 was caused by a 9.1 earthquake that struck off the northeast coast of Honshu on the Japan Trench. A tsunami that was generated by the earthquake arrived at the coast within 30 minutes, overtopping seawalls and disabling three nuclear reactors.
The earthquake was caused by the rupture of a stretch of the subduction zone associated with the Japan Trench, which separates the Eurasian Plate from the subducting Pacific Plate. (Some geologists argue that this portion of the Eurasian Plate is actually a fragment of the North American Plate called the Okhotsk microplate.)
The Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, which caused the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, is estimated to have released energy equivalent to 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. In Banda Aceh, the landmass closest to the quake’s epicenter, tsunami waves topped 100 feet.
The quake caused the ocean floor to suddenly rise by as much as 40 meters, triggering a massive tsunami. Within 20 minutes of the earthquake, the first of several 100-foot waves hit the shoreline of Banda Aceh, killing more than 100,000 people and pounding the city into rubble. Then, in succession, tsunami waves rolled over coastlines in Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka, killing tens of thousands more. Eight hours later and 5,000 miles from its Asian epicenter, the tsunami claimed its final casualties on the coast of South Africa. In all, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.
A little closer to home, an earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone created a tsunami that devastated both Japan and our West Coast in 1700. There are concerns the region is overdue for another similar seismic event.
Have there been landslide-related tsunamis? Sure. One stuck the Mediterranean region in 1693, and killed and estimate 60,000 people.
The disastrous earthquake of 1693 AD caused over 60,000 causalities and the total destruction of several villages and towns in south-eastern Sicily. Immediately after the earthquake, a tsunami struck the Ionian coasts of Sicily and the Messina Strait and was probably recorded even in the Aeolian Islands and Malta. Over the last few decades, the event has been much debated regarding the location of the seismogenic source and the possible cause of the associated tsunami. The marine event has been related to both a submarine landslide and a coseismic displacement at the seafloor.
About 8,000 years ago the collapse of the eastern flank of Mt. Etna in Sicily triggered a devastating tsunami that spread across the Mediterranean Sea. There is evidence strewn across the region, as far as Israel, on the havoc it wreaked. It is hard to imagine what the level of devastation would be if this were to occur again.
However, researchers monitoring the site say all they can do for now is “keep an eye” on the active volcano, as there is no way of telling whether this acceleration will come within years or centuries.
Past work has only focused on Etna’s above-ground component, but gathering the new underwater measurements confirmed the movement is due to gravity acting on its growing, and unstable, flank.
“You can think of a slow landslide at the moment—we had 4cm in 15 months, so it moves really slowly, but there is a danger that it could accelerate and form a landslide that moves really fast into the sea,” Dr Morelia Urlaub from Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research told The Independent, the British daily, recently.
Looking over the data, the real tsunami risks are associated with plate tectonics paired with the location of population. Anyone ginning up fear because of a trace gas ultimately impacting the climate in a barren, essentially uninhabited wasteland of a continent has no business in real science.DONATE
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