Florida East Coast vulnerable to tsunami, UM researchers warn

When you think tsunamis you think Pacific Ocean landmasses — Hawaii, coastal areas of Asia, maybe even the U.S. West Coast.

But a study announced Wednesday by the University of Miami says tsunamis can hit Florida’s East Coast after “submarine landslides” on the Great Bahama Bank. Such tsunamis have been generated in the past, researchers said, and could potentially happen again.

2004_indian_ocean_earthquake_maldives_tsunami_wave“The short distance from the slope failures to the coastlines of Florida and Cuba makes potential tsunamis low-probability but high-impact events that could be dangerous,” said Jara Schnyder, lead author of the study at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Underwater landmasses along the Bahamas archipelago are capable of slipping 12 miles into the basin, triggering waves that would smash into the Florida peninsula as well as the northern coast of Cuba.

One problematic area has already been identified — a 70-mile-long strip capable of triggering an underwater landslide by an earthquake, which occasionally occurs off the Cuban coast.

“Residents in these areas should be aware that tsunamis do not necessarily have to be created by large earthquakes, but can also be generated by submarine landslides that can be triggered by smaller earthquakes,” said Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine Geosciences Gregor Eberli, senior author.

The study, Tsunamis caused by submarine slope failures along western Great Bahama Bank, was published in the Nov. 4 issue of Scientific Reports.

Waves several meters high could reach the Florida coast about 20 minutes after the landslide, researchers said.

*

The weather outside is frightful — if you live in the Northeast or Midwest. But in South Florida it’s … well … delightful.

The peninsula will approach the Christmas holiday next week “in a rather summer-like fashion,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said in their analysis Friday morning. Translation: Possible record high temperatures and even more likely record warm lows that struggle to fall below 75 degrees on the East Coast.

A very summery area of high pressure is expected to build in the Atlantic, pumping unusually warm air over the Florida peninsula while keeping conditions mostly sunny and dry through early next week.

A cold front that does try to limp down the peninsula by the middle of next week probably will probably give up in North or Central Florida, although it could juice the atmosphere enough to trigger a few East Coast showers. High temperatures will remain above normal — normal being mid- to high 70s.

Through Monday, though, highs should click up to the mid-80s, “near or above record highs.”

The green and red sweaters with the reindeer and the snowman will have to be kept in the back of the closet for another time.

Image: A tsunami strikes the Maldives, southwest of Sri Lanka, on Dec. 26, 2004. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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