Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 170, Issue 9–10, pp 1529–1565 | Cite as

The 2010 Chilean Tsunami Off the West Coast of Canada and the Northwest Coast of the United States

  • Alexander B. RabinovichEmail author
  • Richard E. Thomson
  • Isaac V. Fine


The major (M w = 8.8) Chilean earthquake of 27 February 2010 generated a trans-oceanic tsunami that was observed throughout the Pacific Ocean. Waves associated with this event had features similar to those of the 1960 tsunami generated in the same region by the Great (M w = 9.5) 1960 Chilean Earthquake. Both tsunamis were clearly observed on the coast of British Columbia. The 1960 tsunami was measured by 17 analog pen-and-paper tide gauges, while the 2010 tsunami was measured by 11 modern digital coastal tide gauges, four NEPTUNE-Canada bottom pressure recorders located offshore from southern Vancouver Island, and two nearby open-ocean DART stations. The 2010 records were augmented by data from seven NOAA tide gauges on the coast of Washington State. This study examines the principal characteristics of the waves from the 2010 event (height, period, duration, and arrival and travel times) and compares these properties for the west coast of Canada with corresponding properties of the 1960 tsunami. Results show that the 2010 waves were approximately 3.5 times smaller than the 1960 waves and reached the British Columbia coast 1 h earlier. The maximum 2010 wave heights were observed at Port Alberni (98.4 cm) and Winter Harbour (68.3 cm); the observed periods ranged from 12 min at Port Hardy to 110–120 min at Prince Rupert and Port Alberni and 150 min at Bamfield. The open-ocean records had maximum wave heights of 6–11 cm and typical periods of 7 and 15 min. Coastal and open-ocean tsunami records revealed persistent oscillations that “rang” for 3–4 days. Tsunami energy occupied a broad band of periods from 3 to 300 min. Estimation of the inverse celerity vectors from cross-correlation analysis of the deep-sea tsunami records shows that the tsunami waves underwent refraction as they approached the coast of Vancouver Island with the direction of the incoming waves changing from an initial direction of 340° True to a direction of 15° True for the second train of waves that arrived 7 h later after possible reflection from the Marquesas and Hawaiian islands.


2010 Chilean earthquake and tsunami tide gauge records bottom pressure records 1960 Great Chilean earthquake and tsunami tsunami travel time spectral analysis tsunami numerical modeling Rayleigh waves NEPTUNE-Canada DART 



We gratefully acknowledge Denny Sinnott and Neil Sutherland of the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) (Sidney, British Columbia) for helping assemble and verify the CHS tide gauge data, Martin Heesemann of NEPTUNE-Canada (University of Victoria, British Columbia) for providing the NEPTUNE-Canada data, and George Mungov of the National Geophysical Data Center (Boulder, Colorado) for helping with the DART data. We further acknowledge Garry Rogers and Taimi Mulder from the Pacific Geoscience Centre (PGC) (Sidney, British Columbia) for assisting us with the seismic wave analysis. Alexei Ivashchenko from the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology (Moscow, Russia) significantly helped us with specific questions related to the 1960 and 2010 Chilean earthquake sources. We also thank Patricia Kimber of Tango Design (Sidney, BC) for drafting the figures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander B. Rabinovich
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Richard E. Thomson
    • 1
  • Isaac V. Fine
    • 1
  1. 1.Ocean Sciences Division, Department of Fisheries and OceansInstitute of Ocean SciencesSidneyCanada
  2. 2.Russian Academy of Sciences, P.P. Shirshov Institute of OceanologyMoscowRussia

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