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Saturday 24 August 2019

Oil price warning: Tsunami threat to Persian Gulf tanker route

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Phoebe Weston

The world's major oil tanker expressway in the Persian Gulf could be hammered with two-metre high tsunamis as often as every two years, say researchers.

It is likely to be caused by global warming and could cause massive disruption to oil supplies, 30pc of which pass through the region.

For the past 100 years the gulf has been free from tsunamis, which made it ideal for large oil vessels. However, in March 2017 "totally unexpected" metre-high waves thrashed through the gulf, killing at least five people in Dayyer in southern Iran and causing widespread damage to the coast.

New research warns that, in a rapidly changing climate, an extreme weather event could happen every few years in the Gulf region.

Lead researcher Dr Mohammad Heidarzadeh, from Brunel University London, said: "For the first time we saw a destructive wave of three metres. It had the characteristics of a real tsunami and everyone was really puzzled because no one expected a tsunami there.

"For two years I was working on this mysterious wave and finally we've realised it was a type of tsunami called a meteotsunami."

Unlike normal tsunami, caused by sudden motion in the ocean floor, meteotsunami are caused by rapid changes in air pressure.

The 2017 wave was initially caused by a sandstorm in Libya that travelled over the gulf in specific conditions, triggering the large wave.

Dr Heidarzadeh said: "In order for a sand storm to generate a meteotsunami, we need two conditions: one, the sand storm travels over a water body like a lake or a gulf; and two, the speed of the travel of the sand storm should be close to that of the long water waves in the lake or gulf. The fact that the track of a sand storm and its speed is dramatically changed and resulted in a meteotsunami could be evidence for climate change."

Irish Independent

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