Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The threat of a devastating tsunami hitting the U.S. West Coast might be higher than previously thought, scientists say, based on a new study of earthquake faults off the coast of Alaska.
Tsunamis are often triggered by earthquakes, as was the case with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which was sparked by the 9.3-magnitude Sumatra-Andaman subduction quake in the same ocean. The tsunami killed nearly a quarter of a million people.
The new research suggests that future tsunamis could reach a scale far beyond that suffered in a 1964 tsunami generated by the great 9.2-magnitude Alaskan earthquake — "the most devastating seismic sea wave to impact the northwestern coast of the U.S. in historical time," said study team member Ron Bruhn, a geologist at the University of Utah.
That tsunami killed about 130 people, according to official records: 114 in Alaska and 16 in Oregon and California, including several who heard it was coming and went down to the coast to watch.
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