About Professor Simon Haslett

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Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Professor of Physical Geography and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Chile tsunami update

Watched live footage of tsunami in Hawaii, appears to be more of a gentle surge rather than a bore. About 1 m water rise on Big Island, and was almost an hour after their predicted arrival. There was also talk on CNN about seiching in Hilo Bay in Hawaii due to its funnel shape.

Elsewhere, on the Juan Fernandez Islands, where initial reports suggest a 40 m high tsunami, 3 fatalities have been confirmed, and another 10 missing. These islands are close to the epicentre and would have had little warning other than feeling the earthquake itself. Tsunami could refract (bend) around the islands focusing wave energy as the tsunami crest compresses so increasing wave heights. This would be particularly so on the eastern islands in the archipelago, such as Robinson Crusoe Island.

CNN broadcast photographs around 8.50pm (GMT) of tsunami entering a bay at Huatulco on the Pacific coast of Mexico and an eyewitness, Kathy Taylor, described the relatively small wave and the damage it caused. Further north at Ventura, California, some damage is reported.

There are also reports that tsunami up to 2 m high have hit the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, and given these islands are typically low-lying, there could be considerable damage there. But on Chatham Island the tsunami seems to have been only 20cm high.

Pictures are also now starting to be broadcast on CNN as I write of damage caused by the tsunami at Talcahuano (Chile)where large boats have been washed ashore and piled together in places. Judging from these pictures it is likely that the death toll will rise here, but one must remember that the 9.5 magnitude earthquake that struck this area on 22nd May 1960 generated a tsunami that killed 200 people only, so the 147 total for todays event may not grow too much.

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