A mega-tsunami in Hawaii generated by an Aleutian Islands earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 or higher would affect more than 300,000 people, the state estimates, and cause some $40 billion in damage.
But how probable is an event like that?
A team of University of Hawaii at Manoa researchers spent five years trying to answer that question, and here's what they concluded: There's a 9 percent chance of Hawaii suffering a direct hit from such a mega-tsunami in the next 50 years.
In other words, rare but possible.
"These are rare events. They don't happen all the time but there is a chance for them and our effort here is to try to define what that chance might be," said geophysicist Rhett Butler, the lead author on the study, published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research Solid Earth