Stemming from an underwater earthquake off the Aleutian Islands, a massive tsunami could put hundreds of thousands at risk.
Tsunamis are a rare occurrence, but a recent study from a team of scientists at the University of Hawaii reveals a significant risk facing our westernmost state. According to a report from Hawaii News Now, researchers say a mega-tsunami generated by an earthquake off the coast of the Aleutian Islands with a magnitude of 9.0 or higher would cause some serious damage.
The study estimated that such an event would affect more than 300,000 people living in Hawaii and could cause as much as $40 billion worth of damage.
Researchers spent five years examining the probability of an earthquake that would result in massive damages to the state and its properties. Their findings indicate that there is roughly a nine percent chance of Hawaii falling in the direct path of a devastating tsunami. It may not seem like a high figure, but with an entire state’s population on the line, officials can’t be too cautious.
According to geophysicist Rhett Butler, the study’s lead author, “These are rare events. They don’t happen all the time but there is a chance for them and our effort here is to try to define what that chance might be.”
The study was published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research Solid Earth. Researchers warned that even though the Aleutian Islands lie off the coast of Alaska, the force of an earthquake could send a massive wall of water hurtling straight toward Hawaii. The study was based off of models made from data collected from past tsunamis.
Butler’s co-author, University of Hawaii-Manoa geologist and geophysics professor Neil Frazer said, “This is the one that’s more important because it’s very close, so we have very little time to evacuate.”
According to a statement from the study’s authors, “Considering a worst-case location for Hawai’i limited to the Eastern Aleutian Islands, the chances are about 3.5% in the next 50 years, or about $30 million annualized risk. In making decisions regarding mitigation against this $30-$72 million risk, the state can now prioritize this hazard with other threats and needs.”