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Effects of the March 2011 Japanese Tsunami in Bays and Estuaries of SE Australia

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On 11 March 2011 a subsea earthquake off the north-eastern coast of Honshu Island, Japan generated a huge tsunami which was felt throughout the Pacific. At the opposite end of the Pacific Ocean, on the south-east coast of Australia, multiple reflections, scatterings and alternate pathways lead to a prolonged and complicated response. This response was largely unaltered in crossing the continental shelf but was then transformed by bay resonances and admittances. These effects are described using data from tide recorders sparsely spread over 1,000 km of the coast. Some new adaptations and applications of time-series analysis are applied to separate tsunami waves that have followed different pathways but contain the same spectral components. The possible types of harbour response are classified and illustrated. Despite its small height in this region, the tsunami put several swimmers at serious risk and generated strong harbour oscillations, which should be considered when generating future warnings.

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Thanks to Dr. J. Chittleborough, National Tidal Centre, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne; Dr. J. L. Luick, PIRSA, Adelaide; the Port Kembla Port Corporation staff, in particular Mr. A. Dunne, Environment and Engineering Manager and Mr. R. Thompson, IT Manager; the Newcastle Port Corporation staff, in particular Mr. D. Connors, Senior Hydrographic Surveyor, and the staff of the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory and the NSW Office of Heritage and Environment.

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Correspondence to Jon B. Hinwood.

Appendix: Guide to Interpretation of Cross-Correlation Plots

Appendix: Guide to Interpretation of Cross-Correlation Plots

The cross-correlation coefficient plots show the relationship between two time-series, typically two waterlevel records. If the two waterlevel records are each made up of a continuous periodic wave train, there are two typical patterns. The first pattern is produced when the waves have the same period. In this case they will be perfectly correlated at some value of the lag, and again if the lag is increased by an integer number of wave periods. This pattern is shown in Fig. 19a. Here each waterlevel record consists of a wave train of period 61 min. The two waterlevel records are not in phase, with one lagging the other by 5 min. The effect of lag on the cross-correlation coefficient is shown by the vertical displacement of the maximum correlation band in Fig. 19. A rapid change in the lag at a given time will cause a step change in the vertical alignment of the bands at that time.

The second basic pattern is produced when each waterlevel record consists of a periodic train of waves but the periods in the two records differ. This pattern is shown in Fig. 19b. Here one waterlevel record consists of a wave train of period 61 min and the other a wave train of period 62 min. The two waterlevel records are initially in phase but cannot maintain phase with different periods. The steepness of the slope of the bands increases as the relative difference of the periods increases, hence a change in the periods at a given time will cause a change in the slope of the bands.

Fig. 19
figure 19

Basic cross-correlation coefficient patterns. a Two waves of same period (61 min) with constant phase lag (5 min); b two waves of different period (61 and 62 min), no initial phase lag

An actual cross-correlation plot will have more than one period present in each waterlevel record and each periodic component is likely to undergo minor shifts of phase and period. These factors will cause some blurring of the pattern, particularly as the lag increases, and causing the maximum cross-correlation coefficient to be less than 1.0. Major changes in a record will cause changes of vertical alignment or slope as outlined above.

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Hinwood, J.B., Mclean, E.J. Effects of the March 2011 Japanese Tsunami in Bays and Estuaries of SE Australia. Pure Appl. Geophys. 170, 1207–1227 (2013).

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