Natural Hazards

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 43–61 | Cite as

Estimating probable maximum loss from a Cascadia tsunami

  • Dale Dominey-HowesEmail author
  • Paula Dunbar
  • Jesse Varner
  • Maria Papathoma-Köhle
Original Paper


The Cascadia margin is capable of generating large magnitude seismic-tsunami. We use a 1:500 year tsunami hazard flood layer produced during a probabilistic tsunami hazard assessment as the input to a pilot study of the vulnerability of residential and commercial buildings in Seaside, OR, USA. We map building exposure, apply the Papathoma Tsunami Vulnerability Assessment Model to calculate building vulnerability and estimate probable maximum loss (PML) associated with a 1:500 year tsunami flood. Almost US$0.5 billion worth of buildings would be inundated, 95% of single story residential and 23% of commercial buildings would be destroyed with PML’s exceeding US$116 million. These figures only represent a tiny fraction of the total values of exposed assets and loss that would be associated with a Cascadia tsunami impacting the NW Pacific coast. Not withstanding the various issues associated with our approach, this study represents the first time that PML’s have ever been calculated for a Cascadia type tsunami, and these results have serious implications for tsunami disaster risk management in the region. This method has the potential to be rolled out across the United States and elsewhere for estimating building vulnerability and loss to tsunami.


Tsunami Cascadia Building vulnerability assessment Loss PTVA model 



NOAA/NGDC is thanked for providing the resources to enable Dale Dominey-Howes and Papathoma-Köhle to participate in this study. Two anonymous referees and Filippo Dall’Osso are thanked for making numerous helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript all of which significantly improved the final version.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dale Dominey-Howes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paula Dunbar
    • 2
  • Jesse Varner
    • 3
  • Maria Papathoma-Köhle
    • 4
  1. 1.Australian Tsunami Research Center, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.National Geophysical Data CenterNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)BoulderUSA
  3. 3.Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)University of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  4. 4.Department of Geography and Regional ResearchUniversity of ViennaWienAustria

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