Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

South Asia disaster shows tsunamis are an ongoing threat to humans

27.04.2005


The tsunami that devastated south Asia coastlines and killed more than 200,000 people last December is a powerful reminder of just how dangerous those waves can be to humans.



Such reminders have been delivered periodically, sometimes several decades apart, during the last half-century. But the lessons have been largely ignored or forgotten by most people who didn’t suffer direct consequences, said Jody Bourgeois, a University of Washington Earth and space sciences professor who studies historic and pre-historic tsunamis.

Bourgeois this week will urge fellow scientists to find ways to use the current heightened awareness of tsunamis as a means for broad public education about tsunami dangers and prudent safeguards. Such education should be conducted matter-of-factly, without playing on the fears engendered by December’s events, she said. "An important message for us to get out is that these things happen," she said. "Sumatra wasn’t the first. Most people don’t even know about Kamchatka in 1952, and it’s been more than 40 years since the great Alaskan earthquake."


On Nov. 4, 1952, an earthquake with a magnitude perhaps as high as 9 struck off the Kamchatka Peninsula, a part of Russia separated from Alaska by the Bering Sea. The great quake spawned a tsunami that killed thousands on Kamchatka and in the Kuril Islands and caused damage thousands of miles away in Hawaii, Peru and Chile. Because it occurred in the early days of the Cold War, the scope of the disaster in the Soviet Union wasn’t widely reported.

A huge earthquake off the coast of Alaska in 1964 and a magnitude 9.5 quake off the coast of Chile four years earlier triggered Pacific-wide tsunamis. The waves caused deaths and tremendous damage in the immediate area of the earthquakes, but they also caused damage thousands of miles away.

The danger is mounting year by year, Bourgeois said, because greatly swelling numbers of people are living and playing along coastlines vulnerable to sometimes immense tsunamis. That’s the message she will deliver to scientists Friday afternoon in San Jose, Calif., at the annual meeting of the Cordilleran Section of the Geological Society of America, during a session on problems faced by the growing population of the Pacific Rim.

Bourgeois and others have found ample sedimentary evidence of Pacific basin tsunamis, either confined to relatively small locations or spread over vast distances, going back thousands of years. In some cases, other evidence supports the scientific data. For instance, records in Japan reflect damage caused by a tsunami in 1700 that was generated by a magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of Washington and Oregon.

But no tsunami has had a death toll comparable to the one triggered last Dec. 26 by a great earthquake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Earlier this month, the revised death toll from that event stood at about 217,000. Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka were by far the hardest-hit nations.

Because the region has become a major tourism center, those who died came from many nations. Bourgeois noted that some of the 20 or so U.S. and Canadian fatalities came from the heartland, areas far from the coast that seldom experience earthquakes and never see tsunamis. "We need to get that message to people in Kansas, not just along the coast," she said. "Even if you live in Kansas, or Siberia, you should know about tsunamis. In our mobile society, we travel to lots of different places, for vacations and for work."

A key lesson for someone caught in such a disaster, she said, is that you probably will survive the earthquake and you also can survive the tsunami. If you are on a coastline and feel a large earthquake, for instance, you should be prepared to move inland or to higher ground. If there is no escape route and the terrain is flat, look for sturdy buildings at least two stories tall to possibly ride out a surge of water that could be 40 feet high.

Tsunamis also can be triggered by events such as undersea landslides, collapsing volcanoes and asteroid impacts. The chances are stacked against either of the latter two, but if they should occur the effects would be spectacular. "I don’t think I conceived of how big an event a tsunami could be until I saw those videos from Indonesia and Thailand," Bourgeois said, "and I’ve studied them for more than 20 years."

Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Scientists shed light on carbon's descent into the deep Earth
19.07.2017 | European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

nachricht Thawing permafrost releases old greenhouse gas
19.07.2017 | GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>