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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Breaking news: Credit Crunch Saves Costas

By Nik Morton

They say every cloud has a silver lining and it seems that this is true even where the credit crunch is concerned. The Costas of Southern Spain are likely to benefit, at least, according to a scientific study published today.

Avril Loof, 37, of the Tectonic and Seismic Institute, Valencia, says that the recent collapse of several building consortiums in Spain means that her team’s calculations will have to be revised.

‘We first encountered the Tipping Point issue about five years ago. If the trend of building had continued at its 2003 pace, we predicted that the massive weight of concrete would have a catastrophic effect on coastal Southern Spain.’

The northern plates of the Iberian peninusla are pushing against the Pyrenees, raising the earth about 1mm every year. ‘But,’ says Loof, ‘in 2003 we noted that the rise was accelerating and measuring just over +2mm.’

None of their computer models could account for this phenomenon, as there was no increase in seismic activity. In fact, quite the reverse. The frequency and strength of the earth tremors in Spain and Portugal had lessened every year.

‘There was one inescapable conclusion,’ she says. ‘The massive weight of concrete being poured on the land along the coast was tipping the southern part of Spain into the Mediterranean. Our studies over five years had pointed to publishing a cautious alert this year, with particular emphasis on the La Manga area. However, in the last eight months, as building work has drastically reduced, we have recorded a settling for the first time.’

Apparently, settling is where the tectonic plate readjusts and stays more or less static. It remains to be seen whether the peninsula plate will seesaw again when the building industry recovers from the current financial difficulties.

‘In the meantime,’ Miss Loof says, ‘this hiatus offered by the settling has given us time to conduct further important tests. The problem has not gone away. Perhaps lighter concrete may be the answer.’


I.J. Parnham said...

If I remember right the campaigning British documentary Brass Eye was ahead of its time in highlighting the dangers of tectonic shift. At the time scientists believed that falling land was due to the impact of heavy electricity which was falling out of pylons and flattening cows to the extent that Southern England could be catapulated into space and land on Norway. Scientists concluded that there was only an infinitesimal chance of this happening, about 1 in 10, but clearly the problem was worse than first thought.

Nik said...

Thanks for the en-lithning comment on this significant day of all days, Ian.