An entirely unexpected, but fortunately small tsunami swept down the Yealm estuary near Plymouth, the southwest coast of the United Kingdom, yesterday.

The BBC reports of rivers changing direction, fish leaping out of the water, and even hair standing on end due to static. A boatman reported, “The funniest thing was on the causeway all the ladies’ hair was standing on end with the static.” Another person launching his dinghy said, “The tide was coming in from left to right, all of a sudden it stopped coming in from the sea and went back the other way…at four times the speed was unbelievable. It came back at quite a force.”

Dr Davidson, an associate professor in coastal processes, told BBC regarding the probable cause, “It’s probably more likely to be a sub-marine landslide.”

Plymouth-UK-mini-Tsunami-Video credit: BBC
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This occurrence reminded me of something that I’ve been observing off of the north coast of Puerto Rico for some time… lots of earthquakes in the Puerto Rico Trench. The thing about it is that this particular trench is very deep and very steep. “IF” a part of that trench were to let go and slump down the canyon as a ‘sub-marine landslide’, there would be an enormous resulting tsunami that could potentially cause very wide devastation around the Atlantic ocean in that region.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that the Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, with water depths exceeding 5.2 miles! The Puerto Rico Trench is also associated with the most negative gravity anomaly on earth, -380 milliGal, which indicates the presence of an active downward force.

The region is located on an active plate boundary zone between the North American plate and the northeast corner of the Caribbean plate. The North American tectonic plate is descending under Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, south of the trench.

The results of studies involving mapping and seismic profiling of the sea floor off Puerto Rico’s northern shore, have uncovered evidence of an enormous submarine landslide. The the suspect slide extends across roughly 35 square miles, and evidence indicates that a slide of this size would have involved approximately 620 cubic miles of material!

Assuming that the slide occurred as a single event, an underwater slide of this magnitude would have generated a tsunami of frightening proportions. The effects of such a tsunami on present day Puerto Rico would be disastrous, and considering that the region is still tectonically active, an event like this could likely occur again at some point in the future.

In addition to the sure disaster that would unfold in Puerto-Rico, the British Virgin Islands, and other regional islands, I wonder how such a tsunami would effect the state of Florida, although 1,000 miles away, it’s only barely above sea level.

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