Mon | Oct 16, 2017

No need to worry about Kick 'em Jenny - Lyew-Ayee

Published:Friday | July 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
LYEW-AYEE: We know we’re going to be affected.We just don’t know the scale, but I can tell you it’s not going to be Indian Ocean scale.

The impact of any tsunami (giant sea wave) caused by an eruption of Kick 'em Jenny, the underwater volcano located eight kilometres north of Grenada, would in all likelihood be evident in Jamaica, but not cause significant damage, and definitely not anywhere near the scale of the damage caused by the mega 'Boxing Day' tsunami, which hit Indonesia on December 26, 2004.

That assurance has come from Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee, director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute, in the wake of reports that the seismic unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine campus in Trinidad, has raised the alert level from yellow to orange.

The orange alert means there is an elevated level of seismic activity or other unusual activity, and eruption can occur with less than 24 hour's notice.

Lyew-Ayee, the former head of the Department of Geography and Geology at the UWI, Mona campus, made it clear that while it was important to be alert to the potential fallout, media should guard against sending the public into an unnecessary panic.

"I don't want to cause a panic. A lot of people just freak out about every little thing. There would be no way (that) - the type of tidal energy that was released by the Indonesia or Japanese tsunamis - Kick 'em Jenny can release that type of energy," he insisted.

A release from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, which advised that the Caribbean region, and sections of the Eastern Caribbean in particular, have been placed on heightened alert, stated specifically that there is no tsunami alert for Jamaica.

On December 26, 2004, a magnitude-9.1 earthquake struck beneath the Indian Ocean near Indonesia, generating a massive tsunami that claimed more than 230,000 lives in 14 countries, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. Then, on March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan, unleashing a savage tsunami. The effects were felt around the world, from Norway's fjords to Antarctica's ice sheet, with reports of tsunami debris washing up on North American beaches up to two years later.

While Jamaica faces no immediate threat from Kick 'em Jenny, the UWI Seismic Unit advises on its website that the underwater volcano is a source of "immediate and frequent danger" to marine vessels in its vicinity during eruptions as well as 'quiet' periods between eruptions, lying as it does, directly beneath one of the main inter-island shipping routes".

The unit noted that the area is popular both with recreational sailors and fishermen, and for this reason, a 1.5-kilometre exclusive zone established around its summit is carefully monitored.

So just in case Kick 'em Jenny does let loose with a big one, just what should Jamaicans anticipate?

"We know we're gonna be affected. We just don't know the scale, but I can tell you, it's not going to be Indian Ocean scale," Lyew-Ayee emphasised.

"We had a tsunami after the 1692 earthquake; we had a tsunami after the 1907 earthquake ...; that Boxing Day tsunami was 10 metres waves, that's 30 feet, no, we're not getting that."

Lyew-Ayee went on to explain that the displacement of water is the key element in the destructive effectiveness of tsunamis, as he appealed for calm, coupled with preparedness, even while admitting the science that governed his projections is not exact.

"The disruption from a volcanic eruption of Kick 'em Jenny, given its size, is not going to displace the kind of water to create a tsunami on the scale of Indonesia or Japan."

The Meteorological Office of Jamaica yesterday said its small craft warning for offshore areas off the south coast was due to the anticipation of increased wind speeds of 20-25 knots and rough seas, and was not in any way related to the threat from Kick 'em Jenny.

Lyew-Ayee indicated that Jamaica's southern coastline would be more at risk on two counts.

"Southern parishes are at risk from two types of risks; one, they are lower lying than the northern parishes, so you have lower-lying stretches in Portmore, southern Clarendon, Black River, those kinds of areas ... .

"The second thing is that the south coast pretty much faces Kick 'em Jenny, so you have a kind of double exposure there. The south coast is very shallow (but) that shallowness can help to dissipate a lot of wave energy. That's a good thing, but that doesn't help much if you are in a low-lying area (as) the water will just run up on you."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com