60-Metre High Tsunami May Hit Australia at Any Time, Experts Say

Published October 11th, 2018 - 05:00 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)

Experts have warned it is only a matter of time before Australia is hit by a devastating tsunami.

They said the country's coastal cities have been fortunate not to be struck by a series of destructive waves triggered by meteor impacts or seismic activity.

Past tsunamis, the most recent in 1491, have crashed over 60metre-high cliffs and sent seawater as far inland as the Blue Mountains, 50km west of Sydney.

Dale Dominey-Howes, co-director of the Australian Tsunami Research Centre at the University of New South Wales said tsunamis posed a real threat to Australian cities.

'If it occurred without warning on a Saturday afternoon in summer the impacts would be catastrophic,' he told the Australian Geographic.

'I suspect it's only a matter of time before we are affected by something damaging.'

Such a catastrophic event could go undetected until the last minute.

Tsunamis are often triggered by earthquakes and landslides. However they can also be triggered by meteorite strikes, which are harder to detect in advance.

Tsunami expert Dr Ted Bryant, formerly of the University of Wollongong, believes that detection systems would not necessarily pick up on an incoming comet or meteor which could trigger the monstrous waves.

Dr Bryant has found evidence that monumental tsunamis have wreaked havoc across the east coast of Australia throughout history.

He believes a tsunami hit the Shoalhaven delta near Nowra on the New South Wales South Coast between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, sending water 10km inland.

Evidence has also been found that tidal waves from a tsunami reached the Blue Mountains, which lies 50km inland.

Another which hit in 1491 was 60metres high but did not travel as far from the coast, Dr Bryant said.

Australia's coastline is monitored 24-hours-a-day for impending tsunamis, which are only recorded once every two years in Australia.

Although rare, they pose a threat to swimmers as they can bring abnormal waves, tides and dangerous currents.

The comprehensive and independent tsunami warning service, that resulted from the Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS) Project, is designed to advise the media, public and emergency authorities of any tsunami threat to Australia and its offshore territories.  

A video shared of Australia's tsunami detection system, by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), shows the nations last line of defence to warn of incoming threats.

A surface buoy is deployed into the water and anchored to the ocean floor.

This is followed by a tsunameter - a device that detects tsunamis - dropped at the same location.

When an earthquake occurs, seismologists at the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC) determine whether there is the potential for the undersea earthquake to cause a tsunami threat to Australia.

If there is a threat, the Bureau will issue a national tsunami watch.

The tsunameter detects changes in pressure and the information is transmitted through the buoy, to an iridium satellite and into JATWC.

JATWC continues to monitor sea levels to verify, re-assess and update information about a threat.

If the data observations confirm a tsunami threat, the Bureau, on behalf of JATWC, will issue warnings for the affected states and territories under its severe weather communication infrastructure.

When the threat has passed, a cancellation issue will be sent and the relevant emergency authority will inform the public when it is safe to return to the area.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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