GIANT TSUNAMI IN BAY AREA – IS THAT A POSSIBILITY?

There have been numerous movies from Hollywood on natural disasters. Few movies that have been epic blockbusters in this genre are – Volcano, The Day after Tomorrow, Dante’s Peak, The perfect storm and San Andreas. San Andreas in particular deals with a giant tsunami hitting the San Francisco bay area through the Golden Gate bridge. But the real question is how much of this is fiction and is there a real possibility of such a calamity in the San Francisco / California region. The answer to that is actually ## No

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One should understand how a tsunami is caused to understand why the answer to this question is NO. As mentioned in the movie San Andreas, tsunami are caused when the tectonic plates slide underneath one another. This happens on a regular basis and in a very slow manner. But in some unfortunate occasions the plates slide faster due to pressure build up leading to Tsunami. While this is the cause, the tectonic plates in the San Andreas fault are different from the ones found in other parts of the fault. The plates in san Andreas slide in almost horizontal manner and hence cannot create huge waves as the ones depicted in the movie.

Steve Ward,one of the most acclaimed professors in this field from the university of Santa Cruz has published simulations of Tsunami waves hitting the coast. The maximum height that he could suggest theoretically, through his animations were only 30 ft high. While that is high and may flood the city, it is nowhere close to the giant waves that can wipe the golden gate bridge off its foundation.

So the Bay area, though can get affected by earth quakes, will not face a large impact in the form of a Tsunami.

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