Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 170, Issue 6–8, pp 1229–1248 | Cite as

Observations, Effects and Real Time Assessment of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki Tsunami in New Zealand

  • Jose C. BorreroEmail author
  • Rob Bell
  • Claudia Csato
  • Willem DeLange
  • Derek Goring
  • S. Dougal Greer
  • Vernon Pickett
  • William Power


The great Tohoku-oki earthquake of March 11, 2011 generated a devastating tsunami in the near field as well as substantial far-field effects throughout the Pacific Ocean. In New Zealand, the tsunami was widely observed and instrumentally recorded on an extensive array of coastal tidal gauges and supplemented by current velocity data from two sites. While the tsunami's first arrival was on the morning of March 12 in New Zealand, the strongest effects occurred throughout that afternoon and into the following day. Tsunami effects consisted primarily of rapid changes in water level and associated strong currents that affected numerous bays, harbors, tidal inlets and marine facilities, particularly on the northern and eastern shores of the North Island. The tsunami caused moderate damage and significant overland flooding at one location. The tsunami signal was clearly evident on tide gauge recordings for well over 2 days, clearly illustrating the extended duration of far field tsunami hazards. Real time analysis and modelling of the tsunami through the night of March 11, as the tsunami crossed the Pacific, was used as a basis for escalating the predicted threat level for the northern region of New Zealand. A comparison to recorded data following the tsunami shows that these real time prediction models were accurate despite the coarse near-shore bathymetry used in the assessment, suggesting the efficacy of such techniques for future events from far-field sources.


Tsunami New Zealand Japan tide gauge field survey numerical modeling 



The Port of Tauranga provided water level and current data in Tauranga Harbor. Lyttelton Port of Christchurch provided water level data for Lyttelton Harbor. Other sources of sea level data are listed in the Tide Gauge Data section. ASR Intern Cole Cannon conducted numerous phone interviews with employees and operators of maritime facilities throughout New Zealand. The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable information provided by the operators and employees of various marine facilities who were interviewed for this report. Rob Eaton of OCEL Consultants Ltd and staff from En-Viro Consultants conducted the drogue tracking study at Lyttelton Harbor. John Black provided photographs of the tsunami at Port Charles.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jose C. Borrero
    • 1
    • 2
    • 8
    Email author
  • Rob Bell
    • 3
  • Claudia Csato
    • 1
  • Willem DeLange
    • 4
  • Derek Goring
    • 5
  • S. Dougal Greer
    • 1
    • 8
  • Vernon Pickett
    • 6
  • William Power
    • 7
  1. 1.ASR Ltd. Marine Consulting and ResearchRaglanNew Zealand
  2. 2.Tsunami Research CenterUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric ResearchHamiltonNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of Earth and Ocean SciencesUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  5. 5.Mulgor ConsultingTower Junction, ChristchurchNew Zealand
  6. 6.Environment Waikato, Waikato Mail CentreHamiltonNew Zealand
  7. 7.GNS ScienceLower HuttNew Zealand
  8. 8.eCoast LtdRaglanNew Zealand

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