Scientists find sub-seafloor fault off Alaska they warn could trigger a ‘devastating’ tsunami similar to the 2011 event that killed tens of thousands in Japan

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
By Paul Martin

A geologic fault has been found off Alaska that suggests a high risk of tsunamis
The feature resembles one that produced the 2011 Tohoku tsunami off Japan
Waves triggered by the Alaska fault could hit more southernly North American coasts, the researchers claim

1 August 2017

Scientists probing under the seafloor off Alaska have found a geologic fault they say signals significant risk of a mega-tsunami in future.

The feature closely resembles one that produced the 2011 Tohoku tsunami off Japan, killing some 20,000 people and melting down three nuclear reactors.

Writing in Nature Geoscience, the team warn a large tsunami in in the area ‘could have devastating consequences to coastal communities locally in Alaska and around the Pacific Ocean’

Tsunami waves triggered by the newly discovered fault could hit more southerly North American coasts, Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific, the researchers claim.

Similar structures may lurk undiscovered in other areas of the world, they warn.

The discovery ‘suggests this part of Alaska is particularly prone to tsunami generation,’ said study lead author Dr Anne B├ęcel of Columbia University, New York.

‘The possibility that such features are widespread is of global significance.’

Tsunamis can occur as giant plates of ocean crust dive under adjoining continental crust, a process called subduction.

Some plates get stuck for decades or centuries and tension builds, until they suddenly slip by each other.
This produces a big earthquake, and the ocean floor may jump up or down like a released spring.

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