BLACK SWAN: TSUNAMI
Mega-Tsunami Wipes Out East
Could a tsunami destroy
everything from Boston to
Miami? If it did, would we
even stand a chance?
By Autumn Heisler
New York City would be in the direct path of an Atlantic mega-tsunami, should one occur.
SCENARIO: La Palma earned the nickname
“the beautiful island” — white sand
beaches highlighted by black volcanic soil.
An endless night sky filled with stars as far
as the eye can see.
But beauty here is only skin deep.
Nestled on the western side of La Palma
sits the Cumbre Vieja volcano, like a pot
of water waiting to boil over. Its last big
eruption was more than 50 years ago, but
everyone knows it’s only a matter of time
ANALYSIS: La Palma’s mega-tsunami is a disaster, no doubt. And — scarily
enough — it’s not impossible.
In 1949, the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted along the coast of La Palma and
caused an earthquake that created a mile-long fissure on its east side. The force
of the fissure then caused the volcano’s west side to slip six feet into the Atlantic
Ocean. It has since remained in this position, its estimated 1.5 trillion metric tons
waiting like a ticking time bomb.
Researcher and scientist Steven Ward, now a research geophysicist at the
Institute of Geophysics and Planetary
Physics, UC Santa Cruz, and Simon
Day, a senior research associate at
the Institute for Risk & Disaster
Reduction, University College London,
first quantified the features of the La
They looked at the geological
structure of the volcano and created
simulations of the event, which can
be seen on Ward’s You Tube channel:
ingomar200. If circumstances align and
the volcano erupts powerfully enough,
the western half of the volcano could
fall into the ocean and create this mega-
“It’s like a tornado. You could
have a structure prepped for
a tornado, but if it’s in the
way of a CAT 5, that tornado’s
going to win.”
—Ed Mazman, president of property, Ironshore
• A mega-tsunami threatens the
entire East Coast of the United
• While lives will be saved,
property takes the brunt of the
• The environment suffers a
massive blow from chemicals,
nuclear waste and marine
before it unleashes the beast inside.
It starts with tremors. Glasses rattle on kitchen tables while picture frames
skew left and right. Tourists to La Palma brush it off, calling the jelly feeling “sea
legs” — they are, after all, on an island.
But the locals know better and they hold their breath. When it does happen,
the ash and lava spill out of the volcano’s mouth like a giant sigh. No one could
have predicted what happens next.
The western side of the volcano cracks and splits; the steam builds up inside and
pushes against the volcano’s walls. The pressure is too much; the entire western
flank breaks off, the Atlantic Ocean eagerly swallowing every rock, stone and pebble
as they freefall into its deep blue depths. The earth rumbles and the water begins to
slosh around as its calm ebb and flow turns into frenzied splashing and crashing.
The waves grow. And they grow and they grow. To the naked eye, it looks
like the heavens unleashed a curtain made of water — somehow the volcano’s
landslide has produced a tsunami that reaches the sky.
And this mega-tsunami moves fast.
All 3,000 feet of water roars as it barrels away from La Palma’s coast toward
the United States. As the most western island of the Canary Islands, La Palma sits
eight to 10 hours away from the eastern shore by plane. It’s the one piece of good
news: Residents have a window of time to evacuate.
But chaos breeds chaos, and soon the highways are clogged with cars,
frightened families from Boston to Miami trying to flee inland. A final silver
lining: The wave decreases as it sojourns across the Atlantic from a staggering
3,000 to a mere 160 feet.
The wave touches down, flowing onto beaches and flooding bays. Coastal
buildings don’t stand a chance; water rushes inland 10 miles along the entire
eastern seaboard. Homes are destroyed, countless hotels crumble under the force.
Chemical plants that once churned out product by the oceanside spill their toxic
waste into the sea.
Beaches up and down the coast account for billions of dollars in tourism
revenue each summer. It looks like vacationers might not be able to return for
decades thanks to the amount of oils and solvents released.
On top of that, the East Coast is home to 29 percent of the U.S. population.
Now they are displaced — their homes destroyed, their cities flooded. Not
everyone made it out in time.
It’s not the end of the world, but it very much feels like it.