Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Kealakekua and Tsunamis


Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology has warned that Europe's largest undersea volcano, Marsili, could collapse at any time. Enzo Boschi, President of the NIGV, warned that Marsili's fragile walls could collapse without warning. The resulting tsunami would engulf the Italian coast. Marsili is located 150 kilometres South of Naples, and its crater is only 450 meters below the Mediterranean surface.

Above is a favourite place, Kelakekua Bay on the Big Island. It was the site of great tragedy when Captain Cook's blood was spilled in 1779. Today it has some of the best snorkelling reefs on the island. Spinner dolphins are often seen in the bay too.

The steep cliff on the far side of the bay marks where a 30-km chunk of the shoreline broke free 120,000 years ago and plunged into the sea. The resulting tsunami completely submerged the island of Kaho'olawe, 1427 feet high! The wave continued and nearly inundated the island of Lanai. Today on Lanai you can still find chunks of coral deposited at the 1000-foot level.

Cumbre Vieja volcano in the Canary Islands looks peaceful now. Undersea surveys have found a 400 cubic km landslide, the debris of a prehistoric eruption. Previous activity has caused the Western slope to come loose, creating a North-South fracture. Another large eruption would cause 500 cubic kilometres of mountain to crash into the sea. Dr. Simon Day and Steven Ward have modelled what would happen next.

The initial impact would create a water dome 900 meters high, collapsing and spreading like a stone in a giant pond. A massive tsunami would race across the Atlantic at nearly 800 km/hr. The coast of Morocco would be struck by waves 100 meters high. Waves up to 50 meters from crest to trough would strike the US East Coast. Water would inundate coasts from Britain to Brazil.

The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 produced waves up to 30 m high. Krakatoa's eruption in 1883 created 6 m waves, killing 30,000 people. The damage in New York City alone would make 9/11 look like a college prank. The Northeastern US is also vulnerable to earthquakes. As recently as 1925 a magnitude 7 quake struck the region. Unlike California or Hawaii, New York has never prepared for a major earthquake.

Before Einstein and Planck some scientists believed they knew everything about physics. Even today some will tell you that they have inventoried everything in the Universe. It is the height of folly to think we know everything in nature. Earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis could be the hiccoughs of a Black Hole less than a millimetre across. The Universe has power and mystery far beyond human understanding.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Kea said...

As a citizen of the South Pacific, I am certainly glad that I live hundreds of metres above sea level, even if that puts me a bit closer to a major fault line ... indeed it is folly to think that we could control nature with stupid little TOEs.

1:42 PM  
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10:17 PM  
Blogger paigetheoracle said...

I agree with this post. For instance, when it comes to global warming, why does everybody seem to ignore all the seismic activity going on at the same time? Could they be linked? Could this be proof of something like a pole shift?

Another thing - who says Jupiter's red spot is a 200 hundred year old storm? I know of no storm on Earth that lasts that long but an eddy or whirlpool, yes. Could the surface be acting like a liquid, with a hole beneath as in an impact? (Objects spin when caught between two opposing forces or sucked into a vacuum - one of these two propositions could be the actual cause).

12:07 AM  

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