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Friday, June 02, 2006

Million-Year Forecast Shows Disasters Galore

Life, Science

Forecast for the next million years, plenty of meteor impacts, supervolcanic eruptions, megaquakes and worse, says Steven Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay who is taking a novel look at Earth's last million years to forecast the next.

Dutch says that even without major catastrophes, gradual geological change will dramatically alter many landscapes. Some examples Dutch cited are Niagara Falls, San Francisco, Hawaii and New Orleans.

  • Niagara Falls - the water drops over relatively hard dolomite cliffs, which are eroding at a rapid clip. Once worn away, the softer rock upstream will erode even faster until it encounters another layer of hard rock at Tonawanda, NY, and creates another set of falls there in about 14,000 years.
  • San Francisco - the San Andreas fault will set off about 7,000 earthquakes of magnitude eight in the next million years, offsetting the geography of San Francisco more than 15 miles. That will split the San Francisco Peninsula into a fork.
  • Hawaiian Islands - the islands will have moved about 60 miles northwest, Dutch said. The deep undersea volcano called Loihi, to the southwest of the island of Hawaii, will have grown into a new island rivaling today’s Mauna Loa volcano.
  • New Orleans - on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi River outlet will shift in location many times, leaving today's New Orleans far from the river, but still sinking.

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