Tsunami Update

Earlier this month, Chatterbox complained about the scant media attention given the apparently real danger that Washington, D.C., will be hit by a tsunami. Now the three authors of the recent Geology article outlining the newly discovered threat (click here to see an abstract with a link to the article itself) are back from a two-week research mission off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina. According to a Page 2 article in the May 31 Washington Post (under the very Page One headline, “Gas Could Cause Area Tsunami”), the scientists continue to believe a tsunami may occur. Now, however, they think that the geological irregularities previously observed on the ocean floor are not faults but rather depressions caused by frequent blow-outs of subterranean gases. The possible result remains the same–underwater landslides that could cause a tsunami. A press release from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which includes this handy diagram, puts it this way: “A submarine landslide and resulting tsunami along the shelf, although a very low risk when compared to the chance of hurricanes and severe storms striking the area, remains possible.” The “low risk when compared to” phrasing is obviously meant to calm, but after you pause to consider that “hurricanes and severe storms” routinely strike the area today, panic seems a more rational response. Chatterbox urges the president to dispatch to the ocean floor a rapid deployment force armed with SuperSoakers loaded up with Pepto-Bismol.