Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 166, Issue 1–2, pp 177–210 | Cite as

Tsunamis on the Pacific Coast of Canada Recorded in 1994–2007

  • Frederick E. StephensonEmail author
  • Alexander B. Rabinovich


In the last 15 years there have been 16 tsunami events recorded at tide stations on the Pacific Coast of Canada. Eleven of these events were from distant sources covering almost all regions of the Pacific, as well as the December 26, 2004 Sumatra tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Three tsunamis were generated by local or regional earthquakes and two were meteorological tsunamis. The earliest four events, which occurred in the period 1994–1996, were recorded on analogue recorders; these tsunami records were recently re-examined, digitized and thoroughly analysed. The other 12 tsunami events were recorded using digital high-quality instruments, with 1-min sampling interval, installed on the coast of British Columbia (B.C.) in 1998. All 16 tsunami events were recorded at Tofino on the outer B.C. coast, and some of the tsunamis were recorded at eight or more stations. The tide station at Tofino has been in operation for 100 years and these recent observations add to the dataset of tsunami events compiled previously by S.O. Wigen (1983) for the period 1906–1980. For each of the tsunami records statistical analysis was carried out to determine essential tsunami characteristics for all events (arrival times, maximum amplitudes, frequencies and wave-train structure). The analysis of the records indicated that significant background noise at Langara, a key northern B.C. Tsunami Warning station located near the northern end of the Queen Charlotte Islands, creates serious problems in detecting tsunami waves. That station has now been moved to a new location with better tsunami response. The number of tsunami events observed in the past 15 years also justified re-establishing a tide gauge at Port Alberni, where large tsunami wave amplitudes were measured in March 1964. The two meteorological events are the first ever recorded on the B.C. coast. Also, there have been landslide generated tsunami events which, although not recorded on any coastal tide gauges, demonstrate, along with the recent investigation of a historical catastrophic event, the significant risk that landslide generated tsunami pose to coastal and inland regions of B.C.


Tsunami records British Columbia tide gauge meteorological tsunami landslide generated tsunami tsunami catalogue 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick E. Stephenson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander B. Rabinovich
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Hydrographic ServiceInstitute of Ocean SciencesSidneyCanada
  2. 2.Russian Academy of SciencesP.P. Shirshov Institute of OceanologyMoscowRussia

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