USGS Scientist To Present Evidence For Cause Of Caribbean Tsunamis At Boston Meeting

May 27, 1998

The Caribbean is not renowned for its potential to generate the huge waves known as "tsunamis" that often occur in the Pacific. And scientists worldwide refer to them by their Japanese name "tsunami," which means "harbor wave." Yet these long-period waves are not confined to the Pacific Ocean. Historically, tsunamis have occurred in the Caribbean and the Atlantic, resulting in deaths and property damage. USGS scientist William Dillon will present new evidence for the cause of several historical tsunamis near Puerto Rico at the American Geophysical Union meeting, scheduled for May 26-29 in Boston.

"We reprocessed data from a seismic line provided by Shell International," said Dillon. "It shows tilting of the small portion of the Earth's crust, known as the Puerto Rico microplate, upon which Puerto Rico sits. The tilting is probably caused by interaction with the North American tectonic plate as it dips in downstepping fault blocks beneath the Puerto Rico microplate and is overrun by another tectonic plate, the Caribbean, moving eastward. Submarine slope failure and sliding of limestone slabs on the northern insular margin of Puerto Rico resulted, and these submarine slides may have generated some of the historical tsunamis near Puerto Rico," according to Dillon.

Tsunamis are more commonly known by the misnomer "tidal waves." They are not, however, related to tides, which are caused by gravitational forces from the Moon and the Sun.

"It has been known for many years that tsunamis are generated by disturbances of the sea floor from events such as submarine landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions," said Dillon. "These disturbances can generate long-period waves that begin to pile up into a wall of water as they approach shallow water near shorelines. Our data indicate that the Puerto Rico tsunamis may have been caused by the landslides that appear on the nearby sea floor," said Dillon.

Will people in Boston ever need to flee from a tsunami? "I doubt it. By far, nor'easters, the occasional hurricane, and beach erosion from the constant surf are more worrisome. However, a major earthquake hit offshore near Cape Ann, north of Boston, during colonial times. So a tsunami in this area isn't completely impossible," said Dillon, who will present his findings at 8:30am on Wednesday, May 27 in Convention Center Room 201.

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources, and enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.
-end-
This press release and in-depth information about USGS programs may be found on the USGS home page: http://www.usgs.gov. To receive the latest USGS news releases automatically by email, send a request to listproc@listserver.usgs.gov. Specify the listserver(s) of interest from the following names: water-pr; geologic-hazards-pr; biological-pr; mapping-pr; products-pr; lecture-pr. In the body of the message write: subscribe (name of listserver) (your name). Example: subscribe water-pr joe smith.
-end-


US Geological Survey

Related Tsunami Articles from Brightsurf:

Landslide along Alaskan fjord could trigger tsunami
Scientists noted that the slope on Barry Arm fjord on Prince William Sound in southeastern Alaska slid some 120 meters from 2010 to 2017, a slow-moving landslide caused by glacial melt that could trigger a devastating tsunami.

Scientists improve model of landslide-induced tsunami
MIPT researchers Leopold Lobkovsky and Raissa Mazova, and their young colleagues from Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University have created a model of landslide-induced tsunamis that accounts for the initial location of the landslide body.

Rethinking tsunami defense
Careful engineering of low, plant-covered hills along shorelines can mitigate tsunami risks with less disruption of coastal life and lower costs compared to seawalls.

'Tsunami' on a silicon chip: a world first for light waves
A collaboration between the University of Sydney Nano Institute and Singapore University of Technology and Design has for the first time manipulated a light wave, or photonic information, on a silicon chip that retains its overall 'shape'.

Tsunami signals to measure glacier calving in Greenland
Scientists have employed a new method utilizing tsunami signals to calculate the calving magnitude of an ocean-terminating glacier in northwestern Greenland, uncovering correlations between calving flux and environmental factors such as air temperature, ice speed, and ocean tides.

Salish seafloor mapping identifies earthquake and tsunami risks
The central Salish Sea of the Pacific Northwest is bounded by two active fault zones that could trigger rockfalls and slumps of sediment that might lead to tsunamis, according to a presentation at the 2019 SSA Annual Meeting.

Heading towards a tsunami of light
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation.

Paradigm shift needed for designing tsunami-resistant bridges
Researchers argue in a new study that a paradigm shift is needed for assessing bridges' tsunami risk.

How large can a tsunami be in the Caribbean?
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has researchers reevaluating whether a magnitude 9.0 megathrust earthquake and resulting tsunami might also be a likely risk for the Caribbean region, seismologists reported at the SSA 2018 Annual Meeting.

Preparing for the 'silver tsunami'
Case Western Reserve University law professor suggests how to address nation's looming health-care and economic crisis caused by surging baby-boom population.

Read More: Tsunami News and Tsunami Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.