In Past Tsunamis, Tantalizing Clues to Future Ones

From the New York Times science section, this article explained much about which I had been curious. It starts out with the commonplace:

“Major earthquakes occur somewhere in the world every year or two. Catastrophic tsunamis – giant waves generated by undersea earthquakes or landslides – strike less often, and some of the largest of tsunamis originate in places that do not, at first glance, appear particularly treacherous.”

But it rapidly goes to the astounding:

“Tsunamis follow the same laws of physics as ordinary surf waves generated by wind. The difference is size. For wind-driven waves, the distance between wave crests – the wavelength – is at most a few hundred yards. For tsunamis, that wavelength can be a hundred miles or more. Because the wavelength is so much greater than the ocean depth, the speed of the wave depends on that depth. In water 2.5 miles deep, the average depth in the Pacific, a tsunami travels almost as fast as a jetliner, 440 miles an hour.

Ships at sea notice nothing. As a tsunami races past, the ocean surface rises and falls slightly, a few feet at most, over a period of several minutes to a couple of hours. Underwater, the effects are more pronounced. The downward pressure of a surf wave dissipates a few hundred yards below the surface, while the pressure force of a tsunami extends to the ocean bottom. “


“Videos captured of the tsunami seemed to pale next to the cataclysmic imaginings of Hollywood movies, but “looking at the videos, you would be fooled,” said Dr. Synolakis of U.S.C.

For one, those who tried to videotape more imposing waves might not have survived. But also, unlike an ordinary wave, which quickly dissipates and rolls back out, a tsunami is a long sheet of water. “Behind the wave is a change in sea level coming in,” Dr. Synolakis said. “The wave is coming and coming and coming. A three- or four-meter tsunami can be quite devastating.”

One cubic yard of water weighs nearly a ton, and a tsunamis come ashore at speeds of about 30 miles an hour. An oncoming tsunami can hit a building with millions of pounds of force, said Dr. Peter E. Raad, a professor of mechanical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“And that’s before you put anything in the water,” he said.

Trees, automobiles and pieces of concrete all become lethal projectiles as they are swept along by the rushing water.”

And, although others dispute the science behind this prediction:

“Others, including Dr. Steven N. Ward of the University of California, Santa Cruz, have warned that the volcano Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands off northwestern Africa could be nearing one of its periodic collapses. As the volcano grows through eruptions, the sides become unstable and eventually fall into the ocean. During the last eruption in 1949, a two-mile-long crack opened up and one side of the volcano slid 10 feet.

“Geologically, we’re getting close to the end,” Dr. Ward said. “It’s really the cycle of life for these volcanoes. They grow too big, they collapse.”

In Dr. Ward’s computer models, when Cumbre Vieja collapses – and that may not happen for hundreds of thousands of years – about 100 cubic miles of rock will slide into the ocean at speeds greater than 200 miles per hour, and the splash will generate tsunamis 300 feet high crashing into the northwestern coast of Africa. Waves 40 feet high will reach New York.”

Photos Show George W. Bush Seriously Ill Physically : Indymedia Colombia

Remember the analysis of photos showing bulges in his suit suggesting that Bush was being fed his debate lines through a wireless link? This site concludes that Bush’s equipment is actually a ‘Lifevest’ wearable defibrillator. Like his father, Bush may have atrial fibrillation, a cardiac arrhythmia that can cause syncopal episodes (fainting spells; recall the famous Bush ‘pretzel-choking’ episode in January, 2002?) as well as cerebrovascular accidents (strokes or mini-strokes), some of which might account for Bush’s apparent cognitive deficits and psychological instability. One sign of a possible stroke is a facial droop, which Bush appears to demonstrate at times and which may, it is suggested, be the reason we find him sneering. [I think however it is more likely that Bush sneers because he is simply a haughty, inadequate and contemptuous man… — FmH]

For good measure, the post throws in some speculation about hyperthyroidism (Graves’ Disease) — which is the likely cause of his father’s atrial fibrillation — and Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome — essentially cognitive deterioration from chronic alcohol abuse — that I find less compelling. The piece also invokes the scurrilous ‘psychoanalysis’ of Bush by Washington analyst Dr. Justin Frank, about which I have previously posted. I joined many others in the psychiatric community in condemning Dr Frank’s conclusions about Bush’s psychopathology as irresponsible and unethical but — hear me out here — there is a good rational for raising concerns about behavioral observations, given that the President’s actions are in the public domain. The post makes an interesting case that some of these observations could be accounted for by cerebrovascular cognitive impairments.

As the poster concludes, only Bush’s doctors know for sure. As I have said before, just as the results of the President’s annual physical exam are made public, so too should a comprehensive annual ‘mental status’ evaluation bearing on his emotional and cognitive functioning. Despite doctor-patient privilege, the potential consequences of behavioral or cognitive impairment of the man in the Oval Office demand that the Presidential physicians level with the public about aspects of his health that could affect his public functions. Barring that, their responsibility demands at least that they privately steer him out of office if they find him substantially impaired. Who here has any confidence that the fact that the people around Bush have not done so indicates that he is not in fact impaired and that we can rest easy that his hand is on the trigger?