Global Warming

Rare mega-tsunami in Greenland

On the evening of June 17, residents in the Greenland village of Nuugaatsiaq felt a low rumble shake the ground.

Within five minutes, a giant tsunami arrived, caused by a massive landslide in Greenland’s Karrat Fjord. The wave washed away 11 homes, leaving four people in the town of 84 residents presumed dead. But because the tsunami struck in a remote location, researchers didn’t know how exactly it had originated and how big it had been. That’s crucial information, since another landslide is likely to happen in coastal Greenland very soon—and even more enormous waves will be on the way around the world as climate change worsens.

Tsunamis caused by landslides in bays can rise to incredible heights, travel at devastating speeds, and cause massive destruction. The biggest one ever recorded occurred in 1958 in Lituya Bay in Alaska, reaching more than 500 meters in height—almost as tall as the Sears Tower in Chicago or Canton Tower in Guangzhou. A similar, albeit smaller, tsunami is thought to have destroyed Geneva in 563 CE.

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