The TU Delft research findings should be a relief for people living at or near the Atlantic coasts of the US, Africa and Europe. Six years ago, geologists proposed that La Palma is so unstable that it might lose one of its flanks during a volcanic eruption in the near future. This would cause a ‘mega tsunami’ with massive waves up to hundreds of meters in height. Cities like New York, Boston, Lisbon and Casablanca would be all but wiped from the face of the planet, according to the more pessimistic estimates.
But according to the new TU Delft research, the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island simply isn’t large enough to fall apart… yet. In a first of its kind study, the Dutch researchers modelled the inside of the flank and then simulated several volcanic eruptions and watery ‘steam explosions’. In every simulation, the volcanic flank stayed firmly in its place. ‘This is simply a very stable island’, says team leader professor Jan Nieuwenhuis in the September edition of the TU Delft science magazine Delft Integraal.
According to Nieuwenhuis’ calculations, it would take the strength of about 600 million modern fighter jet engines to pull the flank apart: at least 12,000 to 28,000 billion Newton. That is much more than can be expected from a volcanic outburst on La Palma, the team concludes. Only under very extreme conditions, the flank could become unstable, Nieuwenhuis has calculated. This would require unusually heavy rainfall during an exceptionally strong magmatic outburst, or some other highly unlikely combination of circumstances. ‘Based on what we know now, so many things must go wrong that a disaster seems very, very unlikely’, says Janneke van Berlo, who recently graduated in the group of prof. Nieuwenhuis.
The researchers calculate that the surest way to cause a landslide is to wait for at least another 10,000 years. The Cumbre Vieja volcano steadily grows and this causes the flanks of the volcano to become steeper and less stable. ‘A combination of substantial vertical growth and eruption forces will most probably act to trigger failure. To reach substantial growth, a time span in the order of 10,000 years will be required’, Van Berlo states.
At a glance, La Palma doesn’t look very solid even today. It has lost chunks of its flanks at least twice in prehistoric times already. And during the last eruption, in 1949, a two kilometer long rip appeared at the top of Cumbre Vieja’s southwestern flank. But the Delft researchers point out that the cut is nothing more than the result of an innocent, shallow phenomenon, for example local adaptive settlements of the volcano. What’s more, the ancient collapses are good evidence La Palma is stable now: the collapses only occurred when La Palma was much higher than today, at least 2,000 and 2,500-3,000 meter respectively.
Even if the volcanic flank did become critically unstable, it isn’t likely it will go with a splash. ‘Of course the flank won’t go in one piece, but break up first’, Nieuwenhuis said. ‘And it could very well slide down a little and then settle in a more stable configuration, just like our dykes in Holland often do when they go unstable.’ The plunge won’t be a fast and sudden event, Nieuwenhuis stresses. ‘It will more be like a steam locomotive powering up. The first meter of movement should take several days.’
Maarten van der Sanden | alfa
Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter
17.08.2017 | Swansea University
Climate change: In their old age, trees still accumulate large quantities of carbon
17.08.2017 | Universität Hamburg
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.08.2017 | Medical Engineering
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
21.08.2017 | Life Sciences