Giant tsunamis could be triggered by underwater landslides caused by climate change in the Antarctic, according to a study.
Scientists found that climate change episodes millions of years ago may have led to underwater landslides – creating huge waves that crashed on to shores in South America, New Zealand and South-East Asia.
Teams drilled hundreds of metres under the sea bed in the Antarctic and found evidence that during previous periods of global warming three million and 15 million years ago, loose sediment layers may have slipped, causing the massive waves.
While the exact trigger for the region’s past underwater landslides is not known for certain, researchers believe the most likely reason is the melting of glacier ice in a warming climate.
“Large landslides along the Antarctic margin have the potential to trigger tsunamis, which may result in substantial loss of life far from their origin,” said Amelia Shevenell, an associate professor of geological oceanography at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science.
“This study illustrates the importance of scientific ocean drilling and marine geology for understanding both past climate change and identifying regions susceptible to natural hazards to inform infrastructure decisions,” Dr Shevenell said.