Brazilians fear volcano-caused tsunami, but experts rule out risk

If you saw the word “tsunami” associated with Brazil on social media and, of course, you were worried, you can relax. The chances, according to specialists heard by Folha, that the eruption of a volcano in the Canary Islands will cause a giant wave on the Brazilian coast are remote.

Seismic activity associated with the Cumbre Vieja volcano, on the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain, generated a local alert for the possibility of an eruption.

This Friday ( 17), the government of the islands stated that the seismic phenomena have decreased, but that the alert remains, as the slowdown in activities may be temporary. “The process continues and may have a rapid evolution in the short term”, the authorities state in a statement.

The scientific committee of the Canary Islands should meet again this Saturday (18) to assess the evolution of the situation.

The real risk in case of an eruption lies in the vicinity of the volcano, cities such as Fuencaliente, Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso and Mazo.

For Brazil, an eruption in this volcano, which is located on an island off the African coast, in the Atlantic, could eventually cause a rough sea.

Researchers claim that it is unlikely, however, that an event with destructive potential for the Brazilian coast, more specifically for the Northeast, the closest —but still very distant— part of the volcano.

The specialist in volcanic rocks Fábio Braz Machado says that Brazil may feel a kind of undertow, if the eruption actually occurs, depending on the violence of the eruption.

According to Machado , researcher at Un Federal University of Paraná and member of the Brazilian Society of Geology, tsunamis are usually more associated with large earthquakes, due to the enormous amount of energy involved in the displacement of tectonic plates.

In the case of volcanoes, the Tsunami risk grows in those with more explosive characteristics (as opposed to some like those seen in Hawaii, where lava behaves as a trickle). Machado also explains that the height of a volcano is related to its potential for explosion and, thus, in Cumbre Vieja, of 1.949 meters, this problem is relatively high.

The formation of giant waves during eruptions also exists when a part of the island where the volcano is located ends up falling into the sea, says Ricardo Fraga Pereira, geologist and head of the oceanography department at the Federal University of Bahia.

“The catastrophe scenario is not real”, evaluates Pereira, about possible impacts in Brazil. “In this case, it’s not a supervolcano, but it’s of an explosive nature. It requires caution, but it doesn’t require unnecessary alarm.”

There is some difficulty in predicting exactly what will happen in Cumbre Vieja , but even in the worst-case scenario, if large waves really were heading for Brazil, there would be more than enough time for national authorities to alert the population. About eight hours, according to Pereira.

This, not to mention the continuous loss of energy in the wave as it crosses the Atlantic.

Fortunately , Brazil is located relatively far from potential tsunami triggers, such as meeting points between plates and active volcanoes.

And could the country possibly be affected by an event of this type? Well, Machado says that the island of Tristão da Cunha, in the South Atlantic, could cause an explosion with some level of impact in the south of the country.

But, for now, you can sleep peacefully . It shouldn’t be this time.

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