Earthquake swarm rattles Cumbre Vieja volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands: Harbinger of devastating events to come?

  • La Palma in Canary Islands rocked by quake swarm.
  • Is the swarm a harbinger of a coming volcanic eruption?
  • What happens if Cumbre Vieja volcano erupts?
  • Will the volcano collapse into the sea causing a tsunami?
  • If so, could countries around Atlantic be hit by a tsunami? 

La Palma island is home to the Cumbre Vieja volcano, as well as to 86,000 people, a population that increases significantly during tourist season. On Saturday, Oct 7, 2017, and continuing into Tuesday, La Palma has been rattled by an earthquake swarm of more than 40 quakes, between 1.5 and 2.7 in magnitude, in only 48 hours.

Cumbre Vieja (Old Summit), an active though dormant volcanic ridge, most recently erupted in 1949 and 1971.

Although the magnitudes of the quakes were low and deep, María José Blanco, director of National Geographic Institute said “the island has never recorded a similar swarm.” In fact, this earthquake swarm is “different from any seismic activity previously recorded” since monitoring began on La Palma.

According to the Institute, the largest quake in the swarm was at 1:00 pm on Saturday and followed by 10 tremors that took the swarm total to more than 40 by Tuesday,

Tsunami (AKA “tidal wave”):  A long, high sea wave caused by an earthquake, volcanic eruption, coastal or submarine landslide, or other disturbance.  It can travel hundreds of miles over open sea, causing extensive damage when it encounters land. 


Question: How would an eruption at Cumbre Vieja volcano affect the world?
Answer: Spain, Britain, US East Coast, and others would most likely be hit by an eruption-caused tsunami, with hundreds of thousands of coastal dwellers affected. 

Forecast: A volcano-caused landslide in the Canary Islands could generate a tsunami that hits Spain’s south and west coasts and Portugal. It could also batter North Africa before roaring thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to slam the Caribbean, as well as East Coast of the United States.

Following the earthquake swarm on La Palma, the IGN and the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan) have increased surveillance on the island to monitor this increase in seismic activity. Additionally, a team of five scientists that plans to visit La Palma to observe the activity, will also increase the number of seismic stations in the volcanic monitoring network.

The Canary Islands are a chain of volcanic ocean islands located off North Africa’s west coast. La Palma island is composed of two large volcanic centers: (1) Taburiente in the north surrounded by a ring of mountains, and (2) Cumbre Vieja in the south,  one of the most active volcanoes in the Canaries.

So could a long, high sea wave triggered by a seismic event and travelling faster than a jet plane devastate the coastlines of countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean?

You bet, but as always, you be the judge of that!


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