Tsunami wave on the rise
Tsunami wave on the riseIsrael news photo: (illustrative)

A researcher at the University of Haifa says there is a "likely chance" that a tsunami wave could hit the shores of Israel, and that she has uncovered evidence it has happened before.

Dr. Beverly Goodman, a researcher at the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, said following a geo-archaeological study at the port of Caesarea that "Tsunami events in the Mediterranean do occur less frequently than in the Pacific Ocean, but our findings reveal a moderate rate of recurrence."

Goodman's original intent was to track down the remains of ships while examining the ancient port of Caesarea and its offshore shipwrecks. However, the geo-archaeologist said she was surprised to discover "unusual geological layers, the likes of which we had never seen in the region before."

Underwater drilling began with the assumption that local layers were related to the construction of the port. However, said Goodman, the team soon discovered that the layers were spread along the entire area, and realized "that we had found something major."

Geological drilling - in areas of 1-3 meters in length and at various depths - enabled Goodman to date the underwater layers using two methods: carbon-14 dating and OSL (optically stimulated luminescence).

The geo-archaeologist found evidence of four tsunami events at Caesarea: in 1500 BC, 100-200 CE, 500-600 CE, and 1100-1200 CE, which she described in an article published in Geological Society of America.

Goodman explained that the earliest of these tsunamis resulted from the eruption of the Santorini volcano, which affected the entire Mediterranean region. The later, more local tsunami waves, Goodman assumes, were generated by underwater landslides caused by earthquakes.

"'Local' does not necessarily imply 'small'," she said. "These could have been waves reaching five meters high and as far as two kilometers onshore.

"Coastal communities within this range would have undoubtedly been severely damaged from such a tsunami," Goodman added, explaining that the records of the event were preserved for posterity under the sea.

"While communities onshore clear the ground after such an event and return to civilization, tsunami evidence is preserved under the water," she explained.