The tsunami associated with Hunga Tonga eruption has sparked renewed interest in hazards associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. A recent article about geologic hazards and preparedness especially caught my attention: “A Tsunami Could Kill Thousands. Is Escape Possible?” in the New York Times. The focus is on the Pacific Northwest- –specifically coastal communities along the states of Washington, Oregon, and northernmost California.
Large earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis can create shock waves felt around the world – literally. The blast from the volcanic eruption on January 15, 2022, near Tonga caused spikes in air pressure recorded around the planet. We can add this eruption in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean to our knowledge of pandemics, climate change, and numerous other interconnections that tie our planet and our societies together.
Five great earthquakes of M9 or larger have been recorded in the past century and each was followed by a major tsunami, along with vast devastation and many deaths. These events have provided information to help mitigate the effects of future great earthquakes - including what to keep in the back of your mind if you experience strong earthquake shaking in coastal areas worldwide.
When an M8.2 earthquake struck offshore of the Alaska Peninsula on July 28, the eerie sound of sirens warning of a possible tsunami sent people along the coast scrambling for higher ground. Authorities lifted the warning within a few hours, and damage from ground shaking was limited. Viewed from a broad perspective, this event was only a minor distraction, but many earthquakes that are this powerful result in major disasters.