Google Earth detects tsunami trigger spot in Caribbean

March 20th, 2009 - 2:18 pm ICT by ANI  

London, March 20 (ANI): A scientist has used Google Earth to detect a spot in the Caribbean that can trigger a tsunami in the future.

According to a report in New Scientist, the spot was found by Richard Teeuw from the Geohazard Research Centre at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and his colleagues.

We were doing fieldwork on the volcanic island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles and initially just used Google Earth to identify good study areas, he said.

But with its 3D flyover tool, we quickly got excellent direct glimpses of a slab or rock that may soon cause a tsunami, he added.

The flyover tool allowed Teeuw and his colleagues to examine the million-tonne rock in 3D, and from several angles.

They found plenty of evidence that this block of coastline is a landslide waiting to happen.

The flank is undercut by erosion from the sea and we saw scars from recent landslides and tension cracks above the block, said Teeuw. Earthquakes are common in the area and we are pretty sure its going to go soon, he added.

The researchers have calculated that when the rock tumbles into the sea, it could trigger a tsunami of up to 3 meters high.

Though that is smaller than the waves of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the coast of the island Guadeloupe is only 40 kilometers away and has vulnerable flat beaches.

If even a small tsunami hit during the tourist season, and people were unprepared, the impact could be quite bad, said Teeuw.

Whats more, if other blocks above the problem slab were destabilized by a larger earthquake or movement of the slab itself, a much larger tsunami could result.

According to Teeuw, the Google Earth images give enough reason to examine the area more closely with high-resolution survey techniques, such as laser altimetry, which would more accurately appraise the risks of a potential collapse.

If we can do a systematic study using Google Earth to identify the areas most at risk, the detailed analysis can be focused only on the spots that really need it, he said. (ANI)

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