Hawaii scholars study chances of giant Alaska quake, tsunami

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University of Hawaii researchers say there's a 9 percent chance that an earthquake measuring magnitude 9 or greater will strike Alaska's Aleutian Islands within the next 50 years and send large tsunami waves to Hawaii.

Geophysicist Rhett Butler said Wednesday he thought to do the study after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off northern Japan in 2011, generating massive waves that killed 18,000 people.

Butler says he began to wonder what the chances were of a similar quake striking the Aleutians and sending a tsunami to Hawaii. The Aleutians are closer to Hawaii than any other subduction zone, or spot where the earth's tectonic plates collide.

Tsunami waves take about four and-a-half hours to reach Hawaii from the Aleutians.

The Journal of Geophysical Research Solid Earth published the paper this week.