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Inside The DDRJ: The Canary Island Eruption

Mar 11, 2019

You may be wondering:

Is the whole “volcano in the Canary Islands” thing true?

Yes and no.

Yes, there is a volcano, Cumbre Vieja, on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. And yes, this volcano has erupted twice before (once in 1949 and again in 1971). And yes, an eruption from Cumbre Vieja could generate a mega-tsunami capable of traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and hitting the east coast of the United States. But, it’s extremely unlikely.

Based on computer modelling and calculation by Dr. Simon Day of University College London and Dr. Steven Ward of the University of California, if the volcano were to erupt, the following events could occur:

  1. A large chunk of the island’s western flank would break off into the ocean.
  2. The force of this landslide could cause a tsunami wave nearly 3,000 feet high travelling across the Atlantic Ocean at up to almost 500 miles per hour.
  3. The east coast of North America, as well as the Caribbean, would be hit by the wave 8-9 hours after the landslide.

Before you freak out:

While possible, the odds of this mega-tsunami scenario happening are very, very, very low.

While a mega-tsunami hitting the east coast is unlikely, the odds of flooding from a hurricane or another major storm are much higher. Plan ahead for natural disasters like these: visit https://www.ready.gov/.

For additional info on the Cumbre Vieja eruption, check out these resources:

  • The University of California, Santa Cruz: Cumbre Vieja Volcano -- Potential collapse and tsunami at La Palma, Canary Islands [scientific paper]
  • Eureka Alert: Mega-tsunami to devastate US coastline [public release]
  • BBC Studios: Fearing the future - Mega Tsunami [video]
  • The Independent: Canary Islands Face Volcano Eruption and Tsunami Warning [article]