Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New research puts ‘killer La Palma tsunami’ at distant future

21.09.2006
The volcanic island of La Palma in the Canaries is much more stable than is generally assumed, Dutch scientists working at the TU Delft have found. The southwestern flank of the island isn’t likely to fall into the sea (potentially causing a tsunami) for at least another 10,000 years, professor Jan Nieuwenhuis states in the September edition of the university’s science magazine Delft Integraal.

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
Further information:
http://www.delftintegraal.tudelft.nl/lapalma

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Six-decade-old space mystery solved with shoebox-sized satellite called a CubeSat
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation

nachricht NSF-funded researchers find that ice sheet is dynamic and has repeatedly grown and shrunk
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>