A team of researchers at the University of Hawaii have spent five years calculating the risk of a mega-tsunami, created by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake or higher in the Aleutian Islands, hitting Hawaii that would affect more than 300,000 people as well as causing close to $40 billion of damage.
How Likely is it to Happen?
They came to the conclusion that there is a 9 percent (plus/minus 3 percent deviation) chance of this happening within the next 50 years. The chance, although low, means that it can still happen and people should be preparing for it in advance. If a large earthquake were to hit the Aleutian Islands, the mega-tsunami would hit Hawaii in only 4 hours. People would be scrambling to get to higher ground or move further inland.
How do They Know This?
Rhett Butler, leader author and geophysicist at the University of Hawaii Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) and co-authors Neil Frazer (SOEST) and William Templeton (Portland State University) created a numerical model based only on fault lengths, plate conversion rate, handling uncertainties in the data with Bayesian techniques.
They used recorded histories and seismic/tsunami evidence related to the 5 largest earthquakes (greater than magnitude 9) since 1900 to validate the model.
Butler said “These five events represent half of the seismic energy that has been released globally since 1900… the events differed in details, but all of them generated great tsunamis that caused enormous destruction”.
They also looked at past tsunamis before recorded history by analyzing the evidence preserved in geological layers in coastal sediments, volcanic tephras, and archeological sites.
So What Now?
If this horrific event does actually happen within the next 50 years, you better make sure you are prepared for it. Plan escape routes, buy an earthquake/emergency kit, know what to do before, during, and after a tsunami.