La Palma Florida Tsunami Fact Check

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Lava flows from a volcano as it continues to erupt on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. Authorities say a five-week erupting volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma is more active than ever. New lava flows have emerged following a partial collapse of the crater and threaten to engulf previously unaffected areas. (AP Photo / Emilio Morenatti)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A volcano on the island of La Palma has been erupting for six weeks now, and despite theories circulating online, it cannot cause a tsunami that would impact Florida.

La Palma is a Spanish island that is part of the Canary Islands, located over 3,000 miles from Florida. The Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma began to erupt on September 19 and still has not stopped.

According to the Associated Press, islanders living near the volcano have been ordered to stay indoors as lava, ash and gas continue to flow. The eruption produced a magnitude 5 earthquake early Saturday morning and another on Wednesday.

This volcanic and seismic activity has led to some articles circulating online about the eruption causing a tsunami that could impact Florida. These theories appear to stem from a 2001 article claiming that under certain circumstances the eruption of Cumbre Vieja could cause a “catastrophic failure” of the western flank and a landslide. The newspaper claims it could cause a tsunami with waves of up to 80 feet, impacting the east coast of the United States.

This claim has since been refuted by several experts.

“The volcanic eruption of La Palma will not create a tsunami that will reach Florida,” said Max Defender 8 meteorologist Rebecca Barry. “Even if a landslide did occur, it would not displace enough water to create a wave large enough to cross the ocean and damage our coastline.”

“Large-scale and destructive tsunamis are created by much more violent earthquakes and other events that disrupt much larger volumes of water,” she explained. “More recent studies show that a complete collapse might create a 3- to 7-foot wave.”

The National Tsunami Warning Center, part of the National Weather Service, also addressed the theories that are circulating.

“There is NO tsunami danger for the east coast of the United States at this time, following the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, La Palma, Canary Islands,” the agency posted on Facebook on September 19 when the volcano began to erupt. “The National Tsunami Warning Center is monitoring this situation, and based on all available data, including observations of nearby water levels, there is no risk of a tsunami for the east coast of the United States. . “

The US Geological Survey also posted on its page, explaining why the scenario described in the 2001 paper is unlikely.

“The Canary Islands’ mega-tsunami scenario assumed a single, cohesive and massive collapse block that reached high speed very quickly. Mapping of the ocean floor surrounding the Canary Islands, however, indicates that collapses are rather occurring in an incremental or piecemeal fashion, ”the agency explained. “In addition, geomorphologists have discovered, through slope stability analysis, that the potential collapse volume is much smaller than that simulated by the 2001 article.”

The USGS added that tsunami modeling has “progressed considerably” since the article was published in 2001.

“Studies of landslide-induced waves show that they travel at different speeds and interact more over long distances, resulting in a smaller wave height away from their sources,” the post said.

The AP reports that most of the approximately 85,000 people who live on the island of La Palma were not affected by the eruption. More than 7,000 were forced to evacuate, however, due to the lava flow.


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