Researchers Confirm that Massive Landslide Triggered 300-Foot-Tall Lake Tsunami in Remote British Columbia in 2020

Martin Kuprianowicz |
The site of the November 2020 landslide in central B.C which produced a 300+ foot tsunami. | Photo courtesy of Hakai Institute

A new paper published by researchers from the University of Northern British Columbia shows that a giant landslide occurring in B.C’s remote central coast in November 2020 triggered a lake tsunami that was over 300-feet tall.

That’s a wave of apocalyptic proportions.

The tsunami sent a flood wave into Elliot Creek that uprooted trees, soil, and rock as it rushed down the valley, the CBC reports. The tidal wave traveled at speeds upwards of 80 mph and devastated miles of landscape, causing widespread erosion and loss of salmon habitat.

According to the authors of the paper, rapid thinning and glacial retreat where the landslide occurred were the underlying causes of the tsunami. The slide registered the equivalent of a 5.0-magnitude earthquake and was first detected by someone at Columbia University in the U.S. who was monitoring seismic signals, the CBC reports.

“Imagine a landslide with a mass equal to all of the automobiles in Canada, travelling with a velocity of about 140 kilometres an hour when it runs into a large lake,” lead author Marten Geertsema told the CBC, adjunct professor of ecosystem science at UNBC. “The landslide displaced enough water to cause a tsunami with a wave height that exceeded 100 meters (328 feet). This drained most of the lake water which then travelled down a 10-kilometre-long channel causing widespread channel erosion and loss of salmon habitat,” Geertsema said. 

The landslide, tsunami, and flood all happened on a remote part of British Columbia’s central coast within the Homalco First Nation territory. No one is reported to have been harmed or killed.

The landslide destroyed the Elliot Creek bed, creating this canyon after the tsunami tore through it. | Photo courtesy of Bastian Fleury/49 North Helicopters

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