, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1-17
Date: 03 Aug 2006

Historic records of teletsunami in the Indian Ocean and insights from numerical modelling

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Abstract

Following the catastrophic “Great Sumatra–Andaman” earthquake- tsunami in the Indian Ocean on the 26th December 2004, questions have been asked about the frequency and magnitude of tsunami within the region. We present a summary of the previously published lists of Indian Ocean Tsunami (IOT) and the results of a preliminary search of archival materials held at the India Records Office, at the British Library in London. We demonstrate that in some cases, normal tidal movements and floods associated with tropical cyclones have been erroneously listed as tsunami. We summarise archival material for tsunami that occurred in 1945, 1941, 1881, 1819, 1762 and a little known tsunami in 1843. We present the results of modelling of the 2004, 1861 and 1833 tsunami generated by earthquakes off Sumatra and the 1945 Makran earthquake and tsunami, and examine how these results help to explain some of the historical observations. The highly directional component to tsunami propagation illustrated by the numerical models may explain why we are unable to locate archival records of the 1861 and 1833 tsunami at important locations like Rangoon, Kolkata (formally Calcutta) and Chennai (formally Madras), despite reports that these events created large tsunami that inundated western Sumatra. The numerical models identify other areas (particularly the central and southern Indian Ocean islands) where the 1833 tsunami may have had a large enough effect to produce a historic record. We recommend further archival research, coastal geological investigations of tsunami impacts and detailed modelling of tsunami propagation to better understand the record and effects of tsunami in the Indian Ocean and to estimate their likelihood of occurring in the future.