From a European perspective, tsunamis or earthquakes are considered to occur mainly in distant regions. It is often forgotten that Europe’s coasts are also located in tectonically very active areas, and that many catastrophes have occurred in Europe in the past. Faced with this, a group of scientists belonging to the European Marine Board has published a document on marine geographical risks on the European continent, to warn current and future generations about potential dangers.
According to a press release from the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers, reproduced by Phys.org, the specialists make it clear that their objective is not to create an alarm scenario but to report risks that, on certain occasions, seem to be underestimated because they are mistakenly believed that Europe is a continent that cannot be affected by earthquakes or tsunamis .
WARN THE DANGERS
Trying to break down this preconceived idea, the scientists argue in their recently published work that Europe can face different threats of natural catastrophes, which have already been registered in the past and which are most directly related to the present in Spain, on the Canary island of La Palma, where the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted on September 19. What other threats could affect the European continent?
The authors of the paper identified multiple potential hazards, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions , that can subsequently lead to tsunamis. At the same time, tsunamis can also be triggered when landslides occur on the seabed.
At the same time, they highlighted that smaller events can occur that may not cause great devastation, but that can cause significant economic damage . A concrete example is the displacement of large sandbars, which can move along the ocean floor, as happens with sand dunes that move in deserts or in some beach areas on the surface.
The aforementioned sandbars can endanger deep-water pipes or cables, which are used for communications and Internet traffic. Damage to these communication infrastructures can mean losses of many millions of euros to companies and governments.
INVESTIGATION AND MONITORING
For the leader of the group of researchers who produced the document, Prof. Dr. Heidrun Kopp, the purpose is to draw attention to the threats: it is the only way for politicians and authorities to prepare and act accordingly. It is vital, for example, to better assess the risks in maritime spatial planning and construction projects that affect these environments.
In the same vein, they believe that it is urgent to deepen research on geological hazards in the seas of Europe. Producing a high-resolution map of the seafloor, accurately showing geological fracture areas and continental plate margins where earthquakes commonly occur, would be a crucial tool. Detailed knowledge of the location and dynamics of large sandbars is also required.
This ignorance has generated, for example, that researchers have so far not been able to identify those structures that are particularly problematic or threatening. Thus, the exact location of the 1908 Messina earthquake in Italy, which caused 80,000 deaths, is not yet known – the highest number of victims ever recorded by an earthquake in Europe.
Finally, they highlighted the importance of implementing large-scale measurement programs to increase safety. This is the case of the measurement network located on Mount Etna: monitoring has been arranged there that would immediately sound the alarm in the event of a major submarine landslide.