Scientists say a fault-line running across Alaska could cause tsunamis of the same magnitude as the Japanese disaster of March last year.
A particular section of the fault near the Semidi Islands has not ruptured since at least 1788, and measurements on this area – which lies four to five kilometers (2-1/2 to 3 miles) under water – reveal the pressure is accumulating rapidly.
If the Pacific Ocean plate slips, as happened in the geographically-similar Tohoku subduction zone off the coast of Japan, a tsunami could occur – and could wreak havoc as far away as Hawaii and California.
According to Discovery.com, scientists are now investigating the underwater fault-line in the hope of estimating the likelihood of danger to the U.S. and to the Hawaiian islands.
The last time a slip between the Alaskan plates occurred, it led to the Good Friday Earthquake, on March 27, 1964, which was the most powerful earthquake in U.S. history – a 9.2 magnitude earthquake and led to 145 deaths.
Tsunamis also occurred in this area in 1947 and 1957, while a magnitude 7.4 earthquake occurred in the area last June, but as its location did not lead to a tsunami, a brief tsunami warning was recalled shortly afterwards.
Many of these deaths happened hundreds of miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake – with 90% caused by tsunamis.
The Japanese quake, which measured 9.0 magnitude, led to a 10-meter-high (33 ft) tsunami and ended up killing an estimated 18,000 people.
Attribution: Eddie Wrenn, Discovery