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 World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered
18.01.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht A close-up look at an uncommon underwater eruption
11.01.2018 | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Polymers Based on Boron?

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered

18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>