Preposterous Universe

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Save yourselves! Move to the midwest!

Another reason why living by a Great Lake is better than living by the ocean: little danger of tidal waves.

A collapsing volcano could trigger a vast tidal wave capable of wiping New York, Washington and Miami off the map, warn geologists.

They also fear southern England could be hit.

Geologists are concerned that an unstable flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma in the Canaries is in danger of sliding into the sea.

If shaken loose by a volcanic eruption, the huge slab of rock would send a tsunami more than 150 metres high racing across the Atlantic at the speed of a jumbo jet.

Within three hours, the wave would swamp the east coast of Africa, within five hours it would reach southern England and within 12 it would hit America's east coast.

New York, Washington, Boston and Miami would be hit by successive waves abound 20 metres high. Tens of millions of people could die.

Although the volcano could erupt any day - it has been dormant since 1971 but tends to erupt every 20 to 200 years - funding to British scientists investigating the threat has been stopped.

I like "They also fear southern England could be hit." And this is a British scientist, in a story reported by the London Telegraph.

But there's good news, as well: hysteria about being hit by an asteroid has somehow managed to decrease that risk from "microscopically small" to "really so miniscule that we can relax a little." Thank goodness about that.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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