( Survival Manual/1. Disaster/Tsunami)
1. Danger: Massive subterranean methane gas bubble could erupt in the Gulf of Mexico
“Gulf Oil Gusher: Danger of Tsunamis From Methane?, 21st June 2010, mi2G Global
Risk Specialists, London, UK.
A new and less well known asymmetric
threat has surfaced in the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher. Methane or CH4 gas is being released in vast quantities in the Gulf waters.
[Internet image of a nuclear explosion at sea. We can imagine a sudden release of methane, under extremely high pressure, in the Gulf of Mexico might appear similar to the explosive column of air and water seen above.]
Older documents indicate that the subterranean geological formation below the “Macondo” well in the
Gulf of Mexico may contain the presence of a huge methane deposit. It has been a well known fact that the methane in that oil deposit was problematic. As a result, there was a much higher risk of a blow out.
More than a year ago, geologists expressed alarm in regard to BP and Transocean putting their exploratory rig directly over this massive underground reservoir of methane. Warnings were raised before the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that the area of seabed chosen might be unstable and inherently dangerous.
Methane and Poison Gas Bubble
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found high concentrations of gases in the Gulf of Mexico area. The escape of other poisonous gases associated with an underground methane bubble
— such as hydrogen sulfide, benzene and methylene chloride — have also been found. Recently, the EPA measured hydrogen sulfide at more than 1,000 parts per billion (ppb) — well above the normal 5 to 10 ppb. Some benzene levels were measured near the Gulf of Mexico in the range of 3,000 to 4,000 ppb — up from the normal 0 to 4 ppb. Benzene gas is water soluble and is a carcinogen at levels of 1,000 ppb according to the EPA. Upon using a GPS and depth finder system, experts have discovered a large gas bubble, 15 to 20 miles wide and tens of feet high, under the ocean floor. These bubbles are common. Some even believe that the rapid release of similar bubbles may have caused the sinking of ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle.
50,000 to 100,000 PSI
The intractable problem is that this methane, located deep in the bowels of the earth, is under tremendous pressure. Experts agree that the pressure that blows the oil into the Gulf waters is estimated to be between 30,000 and 70,000 pounds per square inch (psi). Some speculate that the pressure of the methane at the base of the well head, deep under the ocean floor, may be as high as 100,000 psi — far too much for current technology to contain. The shutoff valves and safety measures were only built for thousands of psi at best. There is no known device to cap a well with such an ultra high pressure. Current engineering technology cannot contain gas that is pressurized to 100,000 psi.
By some geologists’ estimates the methane could be a massive 15 to 20 mile toxic and explosive bubble trapped for eons under the Gulf sea floor. In their opinion, the explosive destruction of the Deepwater
Horizon wellhead was an accident just waiting to happen.
Fissures or Cracks
According to geologists, the first signs that the methane may burst its way through the bottom of the ocean would be manifest via fissures or cracks appearing on the ocean floor near the path of least resistance, i.e., the damaged well head. Evidence of fissures opening up on the seabed have been captured by the robotic midget submarines working to repair and contain the ruptured well. Smaller, independent plumes have also appeared outside the nearby radius of the bore hole. When reviewing video tapes of the live BP feeds, one can see in the tapes of mid-June that there is oil spewing up from visible fissions. Geologists are pointing to new fissures and cracks that are appearing on the ocean floor.
A methane bubble this large — if able to escape from under the ocean floor through fissures, cracks and fault areas — is likely to cause a gas explosion. With the emerging evidence of fissures, the tacit fear now is this: the methane bubble may rupture the seabed and may then erupt with an explosion within the Gulf of Mexico waters. The bubble is likely to explode upwards propelled by more than 50,000 psi of pressure, bursting through the cracks and fissures of the sea floor, fracturing and rupturing
miles of ocean bottom with a single extreme explosion.
Cascading Catastrophe Scenarios
1. Loss of Buoyancy
Huge methane gas bubbles under a ship can cause a sudden buoyancy loss. This causes a ship to tilt adversely or worse.
Every ship, drilling rig and structure within a ten mile radius of the escaping methane bubble would have to deal with a rapid change in buoyancy, causing many oil structures in its vicinity to become unstable and ships to sink. The lives of all the workers, engineers, coast guard personnel and marine biologists — measuring and mitigating the oil plumes’ advance and assisting with the clean up — could be in some danger.
2. First Tsunami with Toxic Cloud
If the toxic gas bubble explodes, it might simultaneously set off a tsunami travelling at a high speed of hundreds of miles per hour. Florida might be most exposed to the fury of a tsunami wave. The entire Gulf coastline would be vulnerable, if the tsunami is manifest. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and southern region of Georgia might experience the effects of the tsunami according to some sources.
“The ultimate Gulf disaster, however, would make even those historical horrors pale by comparison. If the huge methane bubble breaches the seabed, it will erupt with an explosive fury similar to that experienced during the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in the Pacific Northwest. A gas gusher will surge upwards through miles of ancient sedimentary rock – layer after layer – past the oil reservoir. It will explode upwards propelled by 50 tons psi, burst through the
cracks and fissures of the compromised sea floor, and rupture miles of ocean bottom with one titanic explosion.
The burgeoning methane gas cloud will surface, killing everything it touches, and set off a supersonic tsunami with the wave traveling somewhere between 400 to 600 miles per hour. A supersonic tsunami would literally sweep away everything from Miami to the panhandle in a matter of minutes. Loss of human life would be virtually instantaneous and measured in the millions. Of course the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and southern region of Georgia – a state with no Gulf coastline – would also experience tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of casualties.
Loss of property is virtually incalculable and the days of the US position as the world’s superpower
would be literally gone in a flash…of detonating methane.
While the entire Gulf coastline is vulnerable, the state most exposed to the fury of a supersonic wave
towering 150 to 200 feet or more is Florida. The Sunshine State only averages about 100 feet above sea level with much of the coastline and lowlands and swamps near zero elevation”
The 3 paragraphs immediately above are from the article, How the ultimate BP Gulf disaster could kill millions, by Terrence Aym, <http://www.silverbearcafe.com/private/06.10/ultimate.html>
3. Second Tsunami via Vaporization
After several billion barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of gas have been released, the massive cavity beneath the ocean floor will begin to normalize, allowing freezing water to be forced naturally into the huge cavity where the oil and gas once were. The temperature in that cavity can be extremely hot at around 150 degrees Celsius or more. The incoming water will be vaporized and turned into steam, creating an enormous force, which could actually lift the Gulf floor. According to computer models,
a second massive tsunami wave might occur.
The danger of loss of buoyancy and cascading tsunamis in the Gulf of Mexico — caused by the release of the massive methane and poisonous gas bubble — has been a much lower probability in the early period of the crisis, which began on April 20th. However, as time goes by and the risk increases, this low probability high impact scenario ought not to be ignored, given that the safety and security of the personnel involved remains paramount. Could this be how nature eventually seals the hole created
by the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher? ”
2. Methane Gas Explosion in the Gulf Could Kill Millions,
1 July 2010, Associated Content News.com, by Dave Jackson
“…The worst case scenarios are truly horrific. If this methane gas bubble ruptures the sea floor and unleashes itself, the devastation and loss of life would be unprecedented in human history. The loss of life would not be limited to oil field and spill cleanup personnel – millions of lives all across the Gulf States could be at terrible risk.
The amount of water displaced by such a methane gas bubble could easily generate a tsunami – likely of a magnitude that humanity has never seen before. A gigantic cavity would be left where the
methane existed – which would immediately flood with sea water. Because of the extreme depths of the methane gas bubble, the temperatures are far above the boiling point of water. The icy sea water would explosively convert to steam, increase in volume dramatically, and erupt upwards to cause a second and possibly even larger tsunami.
Looking at an elevation map of the Gulf and eastern seaboard of the United States, it’s clear to see what kind of devastation a tsunami would cause. The gentle incline of the regions sea floor would force the tsunamis height to increase exponentially as it approaches the coast. The loss of life could very well be in the millions, making the Sumatra tsunami look trivial. Estimates for an earthquake generated tsunami in the region show 35 million lives could be in peril.
3. Cumbre Vieja and the US East Coast
There is the possibility that any time an eruption of volcano of Cumbre Vieja on La Palma in the Canary Islands could cause a massive landslide creating a mega-tsunami which travel across the Atlantic in about 9 hours and send a 30-70 foot tall wave across the East Coast of the US from Boston to Miami and into the Caribbean traveling up to 20 miles inland.
The volcano’s last eruption in 1949 made its western flank highly unstable. It could literally split apart next time the volcano erupts, however, has shown no signs of activity since that eruption.
Scientists say the entire area of unstable slope may not fall at once. Instead, smaller landslides may occur over time. These landslides would produce waves one-fourth to half the height of the mega tsunami.
Tsunami: Low Probability, High Impact Event
There is much variation between estimates on how high the Tsunami would be when it hit the US east coast, depending on the size of the landslide, between 98 feet and 197 feet. Surges could reach 600 feet
depending on shore line characteristics.
Monitoring might at best provide two weeks warning of the disaster.
“Cumbre Vieja (Spanish: Old Summit) is an active volcanic ridge on the volcanic ocean island of Isla de La Palma in the Canary Islands, near Africa. This ridge trends in an approximate north-south direction and covers the southern third of the island. It is lined by several volcanic craters. It is currently the most volcanically active of the Canary Isles. Historical eruptions on the Cumbre Vieja occurred in 1470, 1585, 1646, 1677, 1712, 1949, and 1971.
The 1949 eruption
During the 1949 eruption, three vents – Duraznero, San Juan and Hoyo Negro opened and lava was
erupted. Also during the eruption two earthquakes occurred with epicenters near Jedy. Following the earthquakes a fracture approximately two and half kilometers long – about 1/10th of the exposed length of the Cumbre Vieja, opened and parts of the western half of the Cumbre Vieja ridge moved about 1m sideways and 2m downwards towards the Atlantic Ocean. The fracture is still visible (2008) and still has the same dimensions recorded in 1949.
The 1971 eruption
The 1971 eruption occurred at the southern end of the Cumbre Vieja at the Teneguia vent. The
eruption was mainly strombolian in style. Lava was also erupted. Such seismic activity did not occur during the 1949 eruption. Residual thermal activity continues.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC2 Channel) transmitted “Mega-tsunami; Wave of Destruction”, which suggested that a future failure of the western flank of the Cumbre Vieja would
cause a “mega-tsunami.”
Computer modeling indicates that the resulting initial wave may attain a local amplitude (height) in excess of 1,969 feet and an initial peak to peak height that approximates to 1 mile, and travel at about 621 mph (approximately the speed of a jet
aircraft), inundating the African coast in about 1 hour, the southern coast of England in about
3.5 hours, and the eastern seaboard of North America in about 6 hours, by which time the initial wave would have subsided into a succession of smaller waves each about 98 feet to 197 feet high. These may surge to several hundred yards in height and be several miles apart, but retaining their original speed. The models of Day et al., and Ward and Day, suggest that it could inundate up to 16 mile inland. This would greatly damage, or destroy, cities along the entire North American eastern seaboard. The physical damage would take tens if not hundreds years to repair and restore. The economies of the countries affected would likewise take several years to return to the pre-inundation levels.