Zenith Khan asks: Did you know that the 2004 tsunami contained twice the energy of all the bombs utilized throughout World War II ?
How many of us understand the gravity of this situation and even then, many of us do not understand the macro-to-microscopic impact of climate change. We may not heed the ongoing change but lessons from history are an important reminder of what the ongoing climate change means.
In the year 2004, a massive wave up to 30 m (100 ft) high was responsible for killing an estimated 227,898 people in 14 countries, including several communities of coastal India . The onset of this catastrophic event took place when an earthquake occurred on December 26, 2004, in the Indian Ocean after the fault between the subducting Indian Plate and the Burma Plate ruptured. It started with mere tremors that were felt along the shores of Indonesia during early morning hours (7:30 am), and minutes later the waves followed as the aftermath of those tremors which was a 9.1 scale earthquake, 150 miles away from Indonesia’s Sumatra Island. While earthquakes were a common occurrence even then but world for the first time witnessed the physical manifestation of the word Tsunami.
Experts estimate the energy released during the rupture of the plates to be equal to 23000 Hiroshima atom bombs at once . In addition to this Sir David King chief scientific adviser of the US in 2004, told BBC Radio back then that whatever happened in the Indian Ocean underlines the importance of the earth’s system to our ability to live safely . This itself suggests the power that climate change has over us. Tsunami is not a direct result of climate change but is the result of a series of activities.
Our planet is warming up; the number of hot days is increasing. In 2022 UNFCCC claimed that within 5 years there is a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 °C above the pre-industrial level and a 93% likelihood of at least one year between 2022-2026 becoming the warmest on record and dislodging 2016 from the top ranking . The increase in temperature is the centre of most of the climate change effects, including tsunamis. As per the World Economic Forum, the most frequent cause of tsunamis is earthquakes, but volcanoes or landslides cause at least 15% of tsunamis. This brings us back to the argument of Sir David on Earth’s system, an increase in temperature causes changes to the stress of Earth’s crust leading to more volcanic eruptions as well as earthquakes. Tsunami due to a landslide is not very common but it takes place when a rapidly moving landslide mass enters the water or as water displaces behind and ahead of a rapidly moving underwater landslide .
After the Japan Tsunami of 2011, there have not been any such big extreme events but the number of earthquakes has increased. But in 2023, the world witnessed 3 big earthquakes, one at the border of Turkey and Syria followed by Morocco and then Afghanistan. The increasing number of earthquakes along with increasing sea levels further puts the coastal communities at the risk of tsunamis on a bigger scale. Even minor rises in sea level will significantly increase the frequency and intensity of flooding when a tsunami occurs, as the wave can move deeper inland. Further, there is a tsunami risk related to the melting and collapse of glaciers and ice sheets, as well as a sea level rise from the calving and breakup process .
The effect of Climate change is not uniform. South Asia and several third-world countries have the least carbon footprint, yet due to their geographical location are prone to extreme climate, like the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. More prominent voices from these countries are needed to put pressure on developed nations to contribute to the recovery from the effects of this large-scale destruction, as well as to persuade them to change anti-environmental economic development.
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6 ) USGS. (n.d.). How do landslides cause tsunamis? | U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved October 10, 2023, from https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-do-landslides-cause-tsunamis#:%7E:text=Tsunamis%20are%20large%2C%20potentially%20deadly,a%20result%20of%20submarine%20earthquakes.&text=Tsunamis%20can%20be%20generated%20on,a%20rapidly%20moving%20underwater%20landslide.
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