Fateful day when a Lisbon tsunami reached our shores

It's unlikely . . .and it might only be a one in a thousand year event . . . but a tsunami could some day hit our western shores.
It's unlikely . . .and it might only be a one in a thousand year event . . . but a tsunami could some day hit our western shores.

Country Living with Francis Farragher

Sometimes in the world of newspapers, slightly strange or quirky stories can be left on your plate and a couple of weeks ago when I was asked about the possibility of a tsunami hitting Galway, I was inclined to take it all with a pinch of salt.

Now, with any luck at all, neither readers old or young of this publication, will ever have to experience any such calamitous weather event here in the West of Ireland, but after doing a little bit of probing into this whole tsunami business, it is something that could happen. As the prosecution counsel might put it: there is ‘previous’ when it comes to such weather events impacting on Ireland.

Back on November 1, 1755, western and southern parts of Portugal were rocked by a hugely powerful earthquake with an estimated intensity of almost 9.0 on the Richter scale that claimed the lives of at least 50,000 people in Portugal.

Within an hour of that earthquake (referred to as the Lisbon Earthquake) striking Portugal, it triggered off a dramatic impact on the seas of the Atlantic Ocean. The tsunami wave reached as far as Brazil in the west;  North Africa on its southern path; and Ireland and the UK to the north.

Senior lecturer in Geography at UCC and author of a number of books on weather and climate, Dr. Kieran Hickey, is in no doubt that a tsunami could strike Ireland again, but the question is whether this will be a one in a 500 year, one in a 1,000 year or one in a 2,000 year event.

In studies, he as pointed that such an event could be triggered by undersea volcanic eruptions; undersea landslides; the impact of a cosmic body such as meteorite; a landslide from land into the sea or the most likely one of all: a new undersea earthquake along an active fault line in the earth’s plate surface that stretches from Lisbon across to the Azores and onto the Caribbean.

Thankfully earthquakes of a damaging nature are a rare enough event in the European/Atlantic area but little tremors do occur regularly enough but are really only noted by seismologists with the equipment to detect such movements.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.