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September 28, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Mega-Tsunami From Canary Islands? Not Yet

More rumblings from the Canary Islands this morning but, as of now, nothing substantial enough to shake loose the mega-landslide that’s expected to trigger the mega-tsunami which will lead to the mega-submerging of the entire eastern coast of the U.S.  At least, that’s the theory. Fortunately, the recent quaking is centered not at the Cumbre Vieja on the island of La Palma, but at El Hierro just to the south.

[It should be noted that the official stance of the Tsunami Society is that such a landslide scenario is nothing but scaremongering.]

In this photo, the Cumbre Viejo is the giant slope occupying most of the left half of the island of La Palma. Photo: Wikipedia

Tip to tip, the two islands are less than 50 miles apart. Geologically, this is well within spitting distance as the same plates (African and Eurasian) along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge causing today’s earthquakes will be the same ones that will (may?) eventually dislodge the Cumbre Vieja. For now however,  the epicenters of the latest quakes are mainly along the southern coast of El Hierro and relatively minor (the max quake so far has registered 3.8 on the Richter Scale) and at significant depth.

Still, as Jerry Lee Lewis would say, there’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. In fact, more than 150 tremors have been recorded since yesterday and more than 8,000 in the past two months — a sure sign that magma is moving toward the surface in what is likely a sign of an imminent eruption. How imminent? That’s not known. For now, tourists and residents have been evacuated, schools remain shut and the alert level has been raised to yellow.

Although El Hierro is the most active volcano in the Canaries, the previous eruption was 200 years ago. The most recent eruption for La Palma was in 1971.

Most of the recent quakes have been centered along the southern coast of El Hierro. Image: Govt of Spain

YourWeatherBlog wrote about this situation in July. The situation, such as it is, includes not just the earthquake swarms and the potential for volcanic eruption/s, but the possibility for the earthquakes to trigger the tsunami-inducing giant landslide of La Palma’s Cumbre Vieja.

If the Cumbre Viejo breaks loose, some theories suggest much of the U.S. East Coast will be submerged by a mega-tsunami that could reach the coast in as little as eight hours. Image: PopSci

Is the idea of a mega-tsunami silly? Is it scaremongering, as stated by the Tsunami Society? Perhaps in the 1980s and 1990s way of thinking (live for the moment, it won’t happen to me!) it’s silly. And perhaps the scaremongering has a financial root to drive ongoing research funding. However, we live now in an enlightened age where terms like business continuity, emergency preparedness and zombie apocalypse are becoming almost part of the everyday vernacular. Additionally, unusual weather (to say the least) and other natural occurrences are causing the world’s population to ask who we made mad. Whereas many years may be remembered for one particular stand-out event and some decades to be remembered for two or three, 2011 will be remembered for catastrophic earthquakes, record-breaking droughts and heat waves, with unprecedented flooding and forest fires. Then again, this may all be small potatoes when 2013’s CME arrives (read more here).

More information can be found at the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands.






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