The BBC reported on criticism of lack of government action by the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Centre earlier this week. If Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma (in the Canary Islands) erupts, 500 cubic kilometers of rock (approximately twice the volume of the Isle of Man) are likely to slide into the sea, causing an initial wave 900 meters high. Waves (tsunami), initially traveling at over 800 km/hr will reach the west coast of the USA 9 hours later, where they will still be 20 – 25 meters high.
The Research Centre points out that the waves are likely to inundate the coastal regions of Florida and the Caribbean for several kilometers inland, causing immense devastation. As there is no way to prevent the eruption occurring, it is crucial that we monitor the volcano, says spokesman Bill McGuire. Only then, will sufficient warning for the evacuation of the millions people affected, be possible. The cost of such a tsunami is likely to dwarf the cost of the 9/11 attack in the USA – the Research Centre places the potential cost of damage in the multi trillion USD range.
The wave will also hit the coasts of the UK, Spain, Portugal and France, but because the Cumbre Vieja is on the west coast of the La Palma, the main wave will be directed towards the USA. The wave, when it reaches the European coasts will probably “only” be 5 – 7 meters high.
The warning is a result of a research paper published by Steven Ward and Simon Day in 2001, which has so far been ignored. The paper (pdf) is only four pages long and quite readable.