Saturday, 11 May 2013

La Palma: What happens when it erupts?

Satellite image of Canary Islands
La Palma, the largest of the western Canary Islands, is home to Cumbre Vieja, an anicent angry volcano. It erupts unpredictably, sometimes a century, sometimes every decade.

Cumbre Vieja is at the center of a controversial theory, a disaster scenario for the eastern coastline of the United States. The theory of volcanic collapse of Cumbre Vieja could cause a landslide so immense that it would send a shockwave of water, a mega tsunami, whirling 3000 miles. It would hit the east coast flooding everything from Miami to Boston.

Predicted Tsunami alert to US
What gives the theory weight is the island's geological history. Cumbre Vieja has had a partial collapse already. About a week after the start of the 1949 eruption, there was a series of very strong earthquakes and the west side of the volcano slid downwards into the sea. The reason, deep within the volcano is two types of rocks. One lets rain water in and the other traps it. 

The heat from the volcanic eruption could raise the pressure of the trapped water which could force a collapse. An entire side of the volcano, a giant chunk of mountain would plunge into the sea unleashing the mega tsunami. The Cumbre Vieja landslide would be thousands of time larger than the any that the scientists have studied before. This will be the biggest natural catastrophe in history.


  1. Good post to improve the geography knowledge.... Thanks.

  2. Hi Ashwin! Very interesting post and quite scary too since I live in Miami, Florida.

    1. in that case you've got 6 hours with you till the wave hits the place :P