British Columbia

Tsunami impact on Vancouver Island's vulnerable northwest coast to be modelled in new project

The Strathcona Regional District and two Nuu-chah-nulth nations are looking at creating a high-resolution tsunami modelling system for the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

Regional district partners with First Nations to determine size, power of waves that could hit area

Many areas along B.C.'s coast are prone to tsunamis, as illustrated by this sign in Prince Rupert. The Strathcona Regional District is partnering with the Nuchatlaht and Kyuquot Checlesaht First Nations to create a high-resolution tsunami-modelling system for northwest Vancouver Island from Gold River to Cape Scott. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The Strathcona Regional District is partnering with the Nuchatlaht and Kyuquot Checlesaht First Nations to create a high-resolution tsunami modelling system for the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

Shaun Koopman, protective services co-ordinator for the Strathcona Regional District, says there is very little high-resolution data modelling for the area between Gold River and Cape Scott, which is highly vulnerable to tsunamis. 

"We know a lot less than we actually should," said Koopman. 

The joint project will make a detailed topographic site study and then run models that will input seismic activity from two areas where the Earth's tectonic plates meet: the Alaska-Aleutian Subduction Zone and the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Seafloor mapping and aerial photography will be used for the topographic study, while publicly available data will be used to factor in climate change predictions and increases in sea level. 

"It will tell us which one is the highest hazard, how quickly the wave will come, how big the wave is going to get when it gets there, and the velocity at which it will reach that site with present-day sea level rise and the year 2100 sea level rise," Koopman said.

Once the model is run, Koopman says communities along the coast can see what critical infrastructure, and environmentally sensitive and culturally sensitive sites are in the induction zone — and start planning emergency response procedures accordingly.

The project, Koopman says, is inadvertently timely. Late Tuesday, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Alaska Peninsula, triggering a tsunami warning for South Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. 

Hours later, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck 220 kilometres off the coast of Tofino, B.C., but did not trigger a tsunami risk.

The year-long project is funded by a $450,000 emergency preparedness grant from the provincial government. 

With files from All Points West

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now