Mega-tsunami as terrorist threat

You may have seen a program on the Discovery Channel about a mega-tsunami that might be triggered by the collapse of a volcano in the Canary Islands and would wipe out the entire east coast of the US. Here’s an article about this possibility:

Assuming terrorists could deliver a small A-bomb somehow, could this cause the collapse and trigger the wave?

(Of course, anthrax, smallpox and other things are more likely to be used as terrorist weapons. Relatively speaking, they’re much cheaper, easier to obtain and use, and more reliable.)

I saw this programme about a year ago. I can’t say much else other than there has definitely been at least one thread on the Canary Islands tsunami. My own uneducated guess would be to think it wouldn’t matter how the land slid, as long as it did … YMMV.

  • I just don’t think they could deliver an A bomb.

Ps. Unless someone more knowledgeable comes by, I’d search (here) on ‘tsunami’

Do you really think Al Qaeda watches the Discovery channel?


I wonder how that wouldve been occured in the planning meeting…

OBL: Many thanks to Abu Hafiz for the donuts for this meeting, now anyone have new plans to terrorize the USA?

Abu Omar: We are getting certain Ricin ingredients from our “secret partner” coughsaddamcough

OBL: Allah be praised, send the man a human shield or two. Next?

Abu Abu: South Africa is getting to be a bitch (oops pardon my american) to obtain nucular fuel but negotiations are underway and progressing fine.

OBL: Keep at it. Anyone else?

Mommar: …uhhh we could set off a tremendous explosion in a volcano in the Canary Islands that could possibly wipe out the entire eastern seaboard of America… ?

OBL: <shakes head> …Oy

If the mountain were unstable enough that a tiny A-bomb could set it off, I expect that the daily stresses of sea and land tides would already have triggered a slide.

X… great post… lol

Given that a terrorist group were to get ahold of an A-bomb, it would seem unlikely that they would gamble on the possibility of wasting it on such a long shot in the first place. They’d probably want to place it in an unspecified location rather than announce its whereabouts to the entire world, as they inevitably would have to in order to make the threat credible. “We’ve hidden the device in a secure location, and unless our demands are met, we will destroy the Atlantic Coast in some unspecified manner.”

I grant you that an enormous volcanic caldera would provide quite a few hiding places, but surely they’d have to find a way to get the thing deep underground in order for the blast to cause any appreciable seismic effect, yes?

Sorry for straying off-topic a bit, but it’s always been my secret desire to flood the Eastern Seaboard.

If you had an a-bomb, why wouldn’t you just blow it up in a city, guaranteeing that it would kill millions, rather than try to trigger a tidal wave that might not pan out?

well, the simple answer would be its a lot easier to smuggle an a-bomb to the Canary Islands than it is to get into America. However, its only a theory and it requires precise placement in underground caverns. Terrorist would not need to know how to arm a nuke but have some knowledge in geology, spelunking, munitions placement and some idea where the heck are these islands are.

You are now being monitored. That “ckick” you hear on the phone is us. That slow response on your computer is our key stroke logging program. Watch your modem lights for the update to us, even when you are not sending anything.

I, Number 2 (soon to be Number 1), am watching you.

I’ll admit that Al Qaeda using a tsunami as a weapon is a bit silly in a Dr. Evil kind of way, but that wasn’t the question.

This was. Anybody know how large of an explosion it would take to move enough mass to create a tsunami?

Well, if I was Osama Bin Laden, and I wasn’t dead (which I would be), I would just wait for it to happen and then say I’d caused it.

Also, what effect does this have on the rest of the world? I would have thought that if you get a 50 metre high wave hitting North America then Europe and North Africa would be in serious trouble too.

Read Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre. It’s a comic novel that posits exactly this scenario. Except the fundies in this case are Christians and it’s set in L.A. It’s a very entertaining book.

Unless Osama shaves his head, gets a furless cat and starts wearing quasi-futuristic clothing, I think this is a pretty goddamned unlikely scenario :-p

I remember this program from a few months ago on the BBC. The point of it was that this is not a ‘dificult’ thing to do, but that it looks pretty inevitable, and that its happened several times before in various locations around the world.

The Volcano is basically swiss cheese - erosion and volcanic gas have made it unstable and its just waiting to fall into the sea. IIRC there was even a scientist guy who geologically mapped it and pointed out a big mother of a shear plane. The tsunami (well its not a tsunami exactly, just a big farking wave) will not be created by the mass of the rocks, but by the volume of air that’ll be dragged along with it as it falls.

(Horizon has gone a bit weird of late, every second program seems to be about the sky falling in in one way or another and how we’re all doomed. Still, that must be good for the ratings.)

As for OBL using an A-bomb to do it, well its possible, but I’d lose much more sleep over the natural disaster possibility.

And as for it affecting Europe and Africa, it turns out that the mountain is unstable on the western side of the island, and that the devastation on the eastern seaboard of the US would be caused by the wave having such a good ‘run up’ at it, so this side of the pond wouldn’t notice much at all, except for Fox going off the air. :wink:

And, on preview, what Jim said. Good book, which predates this proggy by several years. Wonder where he got the idea?

I don’t think a bomb would set it off; my understanding is that the potential for an eruption-triggered landslide is based on not only the explosive force of the eruption, but hydraulic pressures from the expansion of water and steam (due to internal heating) trapped within the rocks.

I watched a documentary recently about the natural danger posed by the Canaries - I’ll answer a few comments based on my recollections of the program.

It’s going to happen naturally, sometime in the next few centuries. It’s only a matter of time, or an earthquake. An A-bomb could cause enough seismic movement to trigger the inevitable.

Depends if you can find a hollow volcano on the sea-bed, thus creating a caldera that would suck in the sea, then spit it out. In that case, not that big.

It would cause a bit of a splash in Africa and Europe, but it needs to travel across an ocean to really build up momentum.

You need a pretty big bomb to cause 60 million metric tons of rocks sliding into the sea.

You can shift very heavy objects with very small forces if they’re precariously balanced.

Not sixty million, but five hundred thousand million metric tons! I decided to go to the source:

Here’s the Horizon archive, the doom and gloom trend is pretty obvious:

Killer Algae! I ask you. Come to think of it they repeated that one a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t bad.

So can anything be done about it? Could we knock the volcano into the sea a bit at a time? Or once the wave is travelling, can we do anything to disrupt it?