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Mega-Tsunamis: the Oceans Deadliest Weapon

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Mega-Tsunamis: The Oceans Deadliest Weapon

Every single minute of every passing hour, our oceans have the potential to cause catastrophic damage and disaster. With its vast beauty and bountiful resources, the wild ocean comes with a handful of rare geological time-bombs. Once unleashed, they can create an extravagant phenomenon. Gigantic mega-tsunami form, these giant waves are able to cross oceans and demolish cities and countries on the opposite side of the earth. Thanks to modern technology and globalization, we have been able to capture some of the more recent tsunamis and their destruction. For example, the footage of the destruction of the tsunami that caught Japan by surprise in 2011 shook the whole world and brought awareness and respect to the ocean and its potential fury. This was just a typical tsunami, it reached Japan at about 33 feet, and caused extreme destruction along the coast. This example was just a small ripple compared to what our ocean could generate. Our ocean has the potential to generate mega-tsunamis over a mile high, hence the name “Mega-Tsunamis”. If a mega-tsunami of this magnitude were to take place, tens of millions of lives would be eliminated, countries could be reshaped, and civilizations would be whipped out for ever. Typical tsunamis are waves or series of waves that can span hundreds of miles across the ocean and reach about 30 meters (100 feet). These typical waves are usually generated from movement on the bottom of the seafloor caused by earthquakes. A mega-tsunami is meant to refer to as a wave with an initial wave height measured in several tens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of meters high. Mega-tsunamis are mostly generated by large scale landslide, collision, asteroids, or volcanic eruptions. These events transfer a great amount of energy into the ocean, and evidently cause a huge displacement in the water and an initial wall of water is generated. These events are bound to happen, whether in our life time or not--they will take place, and catastrophic damage will almost always be the end result. On July 9, 1958, a giant landslide at the head of Lituya Bay in Alaska, caused by an earthquake, generated the highest ever recorded wave. The initial height of this mega-wave was 525 meters tall (1,719), and surged over the opposite side of the bay (Miller). Luckily, this was not a much inhabited area of Alaska, and only killed two people. Another recorded mega-tsunami occurred in 1792 in Japan. The volcano, Mount Unzen, erupted causing a section of the volcano to collapse into the ocean. The landslide caused a waved that reached 100 meters high and killed 15,000 people in a local fishing village. Five years later, a landslide above the Vajont Dam in Italy produced a 250 meter wave that easily toppled over the dam, destroying the villages of Lonarone, Pirago, Rivalta, Villanova, and Fae, taking nearly 2,000 lives with it. On May 18, 1890, Washington State’s volcano, Mount St. Helen, lost the upper 460 meters of its peak. This created a massive avalanche which surged into the Spirit Lake. This caused a mega-tsunami which pushed the lake waters in a series of waves. The maximum height of this wave reached 260 meters (854 feet). Luckily this event only destroyed surrounding forests along the Lake. Although a lot of lives and villages have been lost due to mega-tsunamis, scientists have predicted future events that will generate waves that could kill tens of millions, demolish countries, and even level out islands completely. The future eruption of Cumbre Vieja, located on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, is one of the more relevant and by far the most concerning phenomenon for Floridians. In 1949, the volcano erupted at its vents in Duraznero, Hoyo Negro, and San Juan. During the eruption an earthquake took place near La Palma. Geologists discovered a fissure (an extensive crack, break, or fracture in the rocks) about 2.5 kilometers long had opened on the eastern summit. As a result, the western half of the volcano shifted about 2 meters downwards and about a meter westwards towards the Atlantic Ocean (Days). This was a very scary discovery. It is hypothesized, that when the volcano is to erupt again, the west side of the volcano has the potential to fail; fail meaning collapse into the Atlantic Ocean. The estimated mass of 1,500,000,000,000 metric tons would slide into the ocean creating a monster of a wave. If this were to occur, the mega-tsunami is predicted to create an initial height of at least 1000 meters (3,300 feet), and by the time it made land fall it would be about 50 meters high.
The wave would affect all of the Caribbean, all of eastern North America, and some of Europe, South America, and Africa. The likelihood of half of the volcano falling off from one eruption is debatable, and the chance of this happening in our life time is slim to none. That being said, it is important to know that an eruption could take place at any given moment, and that event would generate a mega-tsunami that could level out Florida and most of the eastern shoreline of the United States.
Hawaii is also threatened with a potential mega-tsunami. Sharp cliffs and associated ocean debris at the Kohala Volcano, Lanai, and Molokai indicate that the landslides from the past eruptions of the Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes may have triggered mega-tsunamis. (Wells) Future mega-tsunamis are very possible, and would be extremely devastating. Since the Hawaii Islands are so close to one another, the height of the generated from a landslide would be extravagant, potentially reaching a mile in height (3,300 feet). Hawaiians will have little to no time to seek higher ground; for example, a landslide could take place on one island and a mega-tsunami could devastate another in less than thirty minutes.
Is a mega-tsunami overdue? Some scientist believe North American is due for a mega-tsunami. It is not a question of will, but rather a question of when it will happen. Unfortunately, there is no stopping these monsters from occurring, we can only be aware of the ocean and its fury. In today’s world, news travels a little bit faster than a mega-tsunami. We can be informed of an earthquake or a landslide on the other side of the planet in seconds. This is important and gives us a better shot for survival; seconds could be the difference of life and death when you are trying to escape a 100 meter mega-tsunami traveling over 500 miles per hour.

Works Cited

Miller, D. J., 1960, Giant Waves in Lituya Bay, Alaska,
Professional Paper no. 345-C. United States Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia.

"Mega-tsunamis." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2000/mega_tsunami.shtml Day, S.J. "Recent Structural Evolution of the Cumbre Vieja Volcano, La Palma, Canary Islands: Volcanic Rift Zone Reconfiguration as a Precursor to Volcano Flank Instability?" Http://www.geo.arizona.edu/~andyf/LaPalma/Rift%20Zone.pdf. N.p., n.d. Web.

BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2000/mega_tsunami_transcript.shtml Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary.
Harlow, England: Longman. p. 736. ISBN 0-582-05383-8. Entry:

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