With the eruption of the volcano of Cumbre Vieja, in La Palma in the Canaries, fears of a tsunami have been raised with the risk of a significant lava flow in the sea. In Spain, experts want to be reassuring about this possibility .
The lava front, with an average height of six meters, has already devastated houses, crops and many infrastructures in towns such as Tacande or El Paraíso (municipality of El Paso). It is moving forward this Monday afternoon at about 300 meters per hour and 5,500 people have already been evacuated. The President of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, explained on Monday that the lava tongue is likely to reach the sea on Monday evening, stressing that the volcano has already emitted more than 20,000 tons of sulfur dioxide.
But can the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma be the cause of a tsunami causing a plantar disaster?
Since the start of the phenomenon, some scientists have put the subject back on the table, returning to the testimony of a British scientist in 2017, explaining why a major geological accident in the Canaries could have repercussions as far as the other side of the Atlantic. . Professor Bill McGuire of University College London, one of the most prestigious universities in England, has indeed studied the risk of such an event.
In a video on YouTube, he indeed describes the worst-case scenario.
But this catastrophic scenario now seems ruled out. In any case, this is indicated by the vulcanologist from the College of Geologists (ICOG) in Spain, José Luis Barrera. According to this expert, the volcanic episode could last “from one to several weeks, but probably not more than a month and with a high probability that it will not cause a tidal wave or tsunami“.
The scientist explains to the Europa Press agency “that it is very difficult to specify the duration of the release of the magma, but given the type of volcano, its evolution and the duration of previous eruptions, it will not be very long, between a few days and a few weeks, a maximum month“, he says.
If the volcanology expert rules out the possibility of a tsunami, it is because the volume of lava flowing from the volcano “is not excessive“.”These are small Strombolian eruptions that, at most, can kill a few fish, but will not cause a tsunami. It doesn’t have enough volume to create a wave. It is not a hill that breaks. This is not Indonesia“, compares José Luis Barrera.
“Talking about a tsunami is “sensational” but it probably won’t happen“, underlines the expert with regard to this catastrophic scenario.
Specifically, the lava that comes out from the upper mantle is found under the islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma, about 14 or 15 kilometers below the upper mantle, in front of the continental shelf, where the upper mantle is about 35 kilometers deep from the surface.
“What can happen is that the island gains in surface if the lava reaches the sea.“, he continues. As for the evolution of the seismic activity, the vulcanologist specifies that it will depend on the way in which the magma will move and what will be the volume of lava expelled. So far, the earthquakes have not Ricther’s scale exceeded magnitude 4. So far, lava is coming out through eight vents detected by authorities.
The National Geographical Institute of Spain (IGN) has also produced mathematical models to calculate the places through which these flows will progress, depending on the parameters of the lava and the characteristics of the terrain. With this map, scientists try to facilitate the work of Civil Protection, indicating the most likely routes.