8,000 Years Ago The Storegga Tsunami Shattered Scotland
The three Storegga Slides are amongst the largest known submarine landslides in history. They occurred under water, at the edge of Norway's continental shelf in the Norwegian Sea, approximately 6225–6170 BC. Now, new research has charted the catastrophic surge and it appears that the Storegga tsunami 8,200 years ago would have consumed many Scottish cities.
Hit the Drama Button
Mark Bateman, professor of geography at the University of Sheffield, is the lead author of a recently published research paper that suggests about 370 miles (595.46 km) of Scotland ’s northern and eastern coastline were affected when the Storegga tsunami struck around 8,200-years ago. In this instance you simply have to read the paper for yourself as the media are only presenting the dramatic part. For example, an article in The Guardian says “a modern-day disaster of the same magnitude would have worse consequences.” But with all the UK’s main cities being coastal, statements like that are just so obvious, and so, so Hollywood.
The Storegga tsunami. A. Location of slide causing tsunami and location of coastal sites where tsunami deposits have been reported and the estimated wave at those sites. Montrose Basin in eastern Scotland is shown as a red circle. B. Modelled tsunami wave gauge using modern bathymetry for eastern Scotland. C and D. Modelled tsunami wave map showing distribution of first and second major waves to hit Scotland. (Bateman et al. 2021)
Most stories you will read take the ancient tsunami into today’s terms and speak of the dangers with having denserhuman populations. The new paper does indeed fuel this drama with statements like, “with today’s higher sea levels towns like Arbroath, Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Inverness and Wick,” where I was brought up, “would have been destroyed.” The researchers also modeled how far the wave would have penetrated into Scotland’s interior, which the paper says was about 18 miles (29 km).
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All Was Lost One Afternoon About 8,000-Years-Ago
Geologists agree that the Storegga tsunami is the largest natural disaster to have happened in the UK in the last 11,000 years. The vast wave was triggered by a series of three submarine landslides in the Norwegian Sea that caused the sinking of Doggerland, the land bridge that linked Britain, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
Representation of the Mesolithic people of Doggerland dealing with rising sea levels. (Alexander Maleev)
Now the southern North Sea, these rich hunting grounds were a pre-tsunami haven of forests and endless wild beats and resources. This single event had a severe impact on Mesolithic populations at that time, more so than anything else that the universe is known to have thrown at Earth in the last 10,000 years.
What we don’t get in the media presentation of the Storegga tsunami is how the surge might have affected forestry or future agriculture, considering such a dump of minerals and algae. Rather, for example, the BBC headlines with the “Terrible Destructive Tsunami” and we learn Montrose, “which overlooks a tidal lagoon and has a population of 12,000, would have been “completely devastated.”
Cutting Through the Theatricals to Find the Real Storegga Tsunami Story
Getting beyond all the drama, some pretty neat science was at play in this new study, like for example, “luminescence dating.” This technique measures the energy emitted after an object has been exposed to daylight and it was employed to date sediment and deposits from the Storegga tsunami taken from Maryton, Aberdeenshire. So accurate is this method of peering into the past the researchers were able to determine “the date, number and relative power of the waves,” according to the paper.
Sections sampled for tsunami sediments. A. Cliff exposed at edge of Montrose Basin near Maryton sample for luminescence. B. Small exposure at edge of Montrose Basin about 200 m further west also sampled for luminescence dating. C. Vertical sample through tsunami sand collected from (A) for further luminescence, particle size and ICP analysis. (Bateman et al. 2021)
Professor Bateman wrote that similar deposits have been studied all along the eastern and northern coastline of Scotland, from around Berwick-upon-Tweed to Loch Eriboll, in Sutherland. What’s more, Bateman’s new research adds to a swelling database of tsunami info that will now be compared with data from the Norwegian coast north of Bergan, and research undertaken in Shetland and the Faroe Islands.
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And the reason I am so clearly saddened by the mainstream media over this story, the Guardian and the BBC for example, is that they only mention that “THERE IS NO SIMILAR THREAT TODAY” from Norway. But not being able to stand a non-terrifying ending, “the UK is at risk from flooding events from other potential volcanic eruptions around the world,” according to the former of the two drama queens. Just read the paper yourselves.
Top Image: The magnitude of the Storegga tsunami would have wiped out many modern Scottish cities. Source: Kevin Carden / Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie