A tsunami less and less impossible after the eruption of the new La Palma volcano

Two researchers from the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics of the University of California and the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Center -an insurance company-, of the University of London, respectively, they even alerted in 2001 on the risk of a tsunami that it would pose, if there were a new eruption in Cumbre Vieja, the collapse of the slope of more than 3,000 meters high in the highest area of ​​which this volcano is located, a theory that, however, is disputed by scientists from the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan), who assure that «for the Cumbre Vieja flank to meet conditions close to instability, an earthquake of very high magnitude would have to occur simultaneously together with an eruption with a high explosive index, or else, for the current volcanic building to reach in its natural growth at least more than a thousand meters above the maximum existing elevation “, pointed out in 2017 the Involcan specialists who also argued that it would take 50,000 years for Cumbre Vieja to reach that height.

Graph of the eruptions of La Palma with the collapse of Cumbre Vieja that would originate the tsunami LP / DLP

Rocks to the sea

“A future eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano could experience a rupture on its west flank, throwing 150 to 500 cubic kilometers of rocks into the sea,” says a report.

However, given the current rise in adverse geological phenomena that La Palma registers, for the ordinary Canarian citizen the theory of the tsunami has regained strength because, among other factors, a simple – and, perhaps, erroneous – Analysis through the aerial photographs released these days on the location of Cumbre Vieja, a few kilometers from the edge of a cliff facing the sea, has allowed us to understand (or not) with greater clarity the arguments supported by the study Volcán Cumbre Vieja, potential collapse and tsunami on La Palma, prepared by Steven Ward and Simon Day.

“Geological evidence suggests that in a future eruption, the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma could experience a catastrophic collapse on its west flank, throwing between 150 and 500 cubic kilometers of rock into the sea,” says the controversial document.


From Involcan they say that for Cumbre Vieja to collapse they would have to occur at the same time a very high magnitude earthquake together with an eruption with a high explosive index.

According to this analysis, the collapse of that portion of land on La Palma on the Atlantic Ocean would cause a tsunami, with waves between 10 and 25 meters high, which would hit and flood not only areas of the Canary Islands, mainland Spain and Portugal but also different areas of the coast of Africa and would even reach the city of Bristol, in England. The fall of this piece of land on the sea would create a wall of water that would advance “faster than an airplane” and would reach the eastern coast of the American continent.

Waves of more than 10 m.

The lateral collapse of Cumbre Vieja, after crossing the Atlantic, could cause a large wave sequence of between 10 and 25 m. high on the east coast of the American continent.

Always taking into account the opinions contrary to this theory defended by Canarian scientists, without a doubt the professionals who know the most and best the characteristics and the volcanological behavior of the Archipelago, the truth is that in 2018 the New York City Council included in its agenda of risk of natural phenomena the possibility of a tsunami coming from the Canary Islands. A reputed Canarian specialist on the subject, who prefers to remain anonymous, pointed out this week “the existence on the east coast of the United States of at least seven nuclear power plants.” In his opinion, “this is a factor of sufficient weight” to understand “the added concern” generated to the US authorities by a possible eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano. «Fukushima [en Japón] it would be relegated to a mere anecdote », he concludes.

Nine hours

Evolution of the tsunami as a result of the La Palma landslide 2 minutes and nine hours later after reaching the coast of the United States.

National Geographic and the BBC have produced two documentaries dedicated to the consequences that this landslide of Cumbre Vieja would have. In fact, in the work of National Geographic and under the title of End Day, where the five possible causes of the end of the days of humanity are analyzed with – quite – alarmism, one of them was the fracture of the Palmero volcano.

The documentary by the prestigious British channel BBC, for its part, pointed out that one of the biggest current concerns of scientists is the danger that an explosion on La Palma will cause a repeat mega tsunami worse than that of Ritter, in the Pacific , registered in 1888.

Fast as an airplane

The fall of that piece of land into the sea would create a wall of water that would advance “faster than an airplane.” It would hit the coast of Portugal, mainland Spain and England.

Steven Ward and Simon Day, authors of the Cumbre Vieja Volcano study, potential collapse and tsunami on La Palma, they estimated in 2001 that the unstable part of Cumbre Vieja would be at least 15 kilometers wide in a north-south direction. The computer simulation designed by the Benfield Hazard Research Center in London and the University of California also indicates that the waves that would derive from the impact of such a piece of land against the sea surface would spread beyond the Canary Islands, towards the United States, Europe and Brazil, affecting a total of 100 million people.


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