Impact of Alaskan volcanic eruption on Hawaii


Aerial view along the main volcanic chain from Mount Katmai’s caldera lake, across the rugged peaks of Trident Volcano, to the snow-capped Mount Mageik, some 20 kilometers away in Alaska. (Photo/Wes Hildreth and Judy Fierstein via US Geological Survey)

Honolulu (KHON2) — Apocalyptic stories are very popular in television, film and literature these days. Everything a human can imagine is covered in these entertaining fictions.

But for many, the concept of a post-apocalyptic world sends them into planning mode. I spend my time doing

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Then there’s the 12th anniversary (March 11) of the tsunami that hit Japan’s Tohoku region (northeast Honshu). The earthquake sent one of the most devastating tsunamis in modern history to the coast of Japan.

This geological event damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant and to this day Japan is still trying to find a way to deal with all its radioactive water.

Hawaii recently experienced the eruption of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. These events were small and drew large numbers of tourists to see Pele in action.

So KHON2 started wondering what would happen to Hawaii if Mount Katmai in Alaska decided to have a massive eruption.

KHON2 set out to discover what would happen to us here in paradise if a tsunami hit from our far north neighbor.

We reached out to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to find out what volcanologists and atmospheric oceanographers know. This proved to be a futile path as none of the professors contacted were experts in the field.

KHON2 has moved to the US Geological Survey and Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

I didn’t get a call from USGS, but I got a call from HIEMA.

Luckily there was someone who was able to discuss this with us.

So what did the experts have to say (off the record) about the scenario where Mount Katmai erupts and sends a tsunami south?

After all, not so much.

Experts say the Aleutian Basin lies between Alaska’s volcanoes and Hawaii. This basin will prevent the tsunami from traveling this far south. They said there may be waves crashing on the exposed eastern shore, but those waves are unlikely to cause any cataclysms in Hawaii.

But what about ash and particulates?

Again, it doesn’t happen often. Experts noted that Hawaii is fairly remote. Ash and particulate matter can reach Hawaii, but Hawaii is fairly isolated, so the amount will be small.

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So that’s it. A tsunami coming from Alaska probably won’t have any impact on Hawaii’s shores. And you probably won’t have to deal with the same amount of ash and particles that you would find on the mainland.

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