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Newsletter article; Tsunami or Tall Tales?
Tsunami or Tall Tales?
by George Curtis
Most recently, the Discovery Channel has replayed a program alleging potential destruction of coastal areas of the Atlantic by tsunami waves which might be generated in the near future by a volcanic collapse in the Canary Islands. Other reports have involved a smaller but similar catastrophe from Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawai`i. They like to call these occurrences "mega tsunamis". We would like to halt the scaremongering from these unfounded reports. We wish to provide the media with factual information so that the public can be properly informed about actual hazards of tsunamis and their mitigation.
The mission of the Tsunami Society includes "the dissemination of knowledge about tsunamis to scientists, officials, and the public". We have established a committee of private, university, and government scientists to accomplish part of this goal by correcting misleading or invalid information released to public about this hazard. We can supply both valid, correct and important information and advice to the public, and the names of reputable scientists active in the field of tsunamis, who can provide such information.
Here are a set of facts, agreed on by committee members, about the claims in these reports:
black ball While the active volcano of Cumbre Vieja on Las Palma is expected to erupt again, it will not send a large part of the island into the ocean, though small landslides may occur. The program does not bring out in the interviews that such volcanic collapses are extremely rare events, separated in geologic time by thousands or even millions of years.
black ball No such event a mega tsunami has occurred in either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans in recorded history. None.
black ball The colossal collapses of Krakatau or Santorin (the two most similar known happenings) generated catastrophic waves in the immediate area but hazardous waves did not propagate to distant shores. Carefully performed numerical and experimental model experiments on such events, and of the postulated Las Palma event verify that the relatively short waves from these small, though intense, occurrences do not travel as do waves from a major earthquake.
black ball The U.S. volcano observatory, situated on Kilauea, near the current eruption, states that there is no likelihood of that part of the island breaking off into the ocean.
black ball These considerations have been published in journals and discussed at conferences sponsored by the Tsunami Society.
Some papers on this subject include:
black ball "Evaluation of the threat of Mega Tsunami Generation From ....Volcanoes on La Palma... and Hawaii", George Pararas-Carayannis, in Science of Tsunami Hazards, Vol 20, No.5, 2002.
black ball "Modeling the La Palma Landslide Tsunami", Charles L. Mader, in Science of Tsunami Hazards, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2001.
black ball "Volcano Growth and the Evolution of the Island of Hawaii", J.G. Moore and D.A.Clague, in the Geologic Society of America Bulletin, 104, 1992.
Committee members for this project report include:
Mr. George Curtis, Hilo HI (committee chairman) 808-963-6670
Dr. Tad Murty, Ottawa, Canada, 613-731-8900
Dr. Laura Kong, Honolulu, HI, 808-532-6422
Dr. George Pararas-Caryannis, Honolulu, 808-943-1150
Dr. Charles L. Mader, Los Alamos, NM and Honolulu HI, 808-396-9855

For more scientific information on tsunamis, visit:
For all papers published by the Tsunami Society, see:

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