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Thursday, September 11, 2008

SIX HOURS TO SEATTLE (Part 1)

Large Waves, Tsunamis and Mega Tsunamis (Part 1)

The next set of postings have nothing to do with energy nor global warming. Much of the series will be excerpted from Chapter 6 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Planet Earth. I added this topic because the genesis can be traced to the early 1970's when I was on the team of the Hawaii Geothermal Project, and National Science Foundation funding supported an effort I led on geothermal reservoir engineering, where I noticed that a series of faults, if connected, could lead to a monstrous landslide. In those days, I was not aware that the result could be a cataclysmic tsunami.
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What caught my attention thirty years later is that a major 9.0 undersea earthquake will not cause a tsunami greater than 10 meters in the far field. However, a huge chunk of an island falling quickly and deeply can be calculated to induce 100 meter and greater tsunamis.
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A tsunami is a Japanese term for harbor (tsu) waves, and can be triggered by an earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide or asteroid impact. They are also low frequency sea waves, meaning that the period or distance or wavelength between crests is quite long. Normal waves have periods of seconds, while tsunamis are in the range of a thousand seconds and more. It is not a tidal wave, as such, nor a rogue wave.

But there are non-tsunami monster waves in excess of 27 meters (90 feet). The Naval Research Laboratory, measuring water pressure changes at the bottom of the ocean during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, recorded such waves. Dan Moore won $68,000 at the 2005 Billabong XXL big wave competition by surfing a nearly 21 meter (68 foot) wave at “Jaws,” located on the north shore of Maui in December of 2004. But this wasn’t as large as the 2003 21+ meter (70 foot) wave ridden by Peter Cabrinha. Not to fear, though, as all these waves peter out at the shoreline, where, in surfing tournaments, hordes of fans sit right where the waves lap. Remember The Perfect Storm, the movie? The largest reported wave, maybe even the one that sank the Andrea Gail, was all of 39 feet.
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Hurricane Ike is at 100 MPH and is expected to strengthen to 120 MPH, with the eye heading straight for Galveston. Now officially a monster (term used by newscasters), Ike has a diameter of 700 miles. The Texas (and even Louisiana) coastline should by Friday begin to suffer from high winds, floods and major storm surges, even as far away as Mississippi and Alabama. The terrifying official government warning is that there will be almost certain death for anyone remaining in and near Galveston, so evacuation is mandatory. Houston will be seriously impacted on Saturday, and, as of today, projections are that as many as half of homes in this area could well be seriously damaged. Offshore oil platforms will be in jeopardy and refineries will almost surely be compromised.
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Tropical Depression Lowell whipped through lower Baha, and now weakening below 30 MPH will further weaken through Mexico.
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Typhoon Sinlaku is at 120 MPH and will mostly miss Taiwan to the northeast, but should head towards Okinawa. This is a strange typhoon, as movement and strength have defied expectations. It is now moving very slowly and could intensity into a super typhoon, or weaken into a tropical storm by the time it nears Okinawa.
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There is a tropical depression that moved away from Kyushu.
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Ike is not scaring the fiscal/oil community, as oil is now just above $100/barrel and the DJI jumped 165 to 11,434.
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