Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 171, Issue 12, pp 3405–3419 | Cite as

Excitation of Basin-Wide Modes of the Pacific Ocean Following the March 2011 Tohoku Tsunami

  • Mohammad HeidarzadehEmail author
  • Kenji Satake


This study is an attempt towards understanding the sources of long oscillations observed within the Pacific Ocean following the 11 March 2011 Tohoku earthquake. We present evidence that extremely long modes of the Pacific Ocean in the range of 2–48 h were excited by this giant tsunami. A numerical approach was employed to calculate the basin-wide modes of the Pacific Ocean, resulting in 49 modes in the range of 2–48 h. We studied 15 tide-gauge records around the Pacific Ocean in order to extract basin-wide modes of the Pacific Ocean excited by this transoceanic tsunami. Spectral analysis of these tide-gauge records showed that some of the calculated basin-wide modes were indeed excited by the Tohoku tsunami. The observed modes ranged from 2 to 49.8 h. We attributed the long oscillations of the Pacific Ocean during the 2011 Tohoku tsunami to the excitation of these basin-wide modes, which can be grouped into global modes (15–48 h) and regional modes (2–15 h). We classified the signals on the tide gauges into three groups: (1) basin-wide modes (>1.5 h), (2) the tsunami source periods (20–90 min), and (3) local bathymetric effects (<20 min). The average contributions to the total tsunami energy were 6.4 % for the basin-wide mode, 64.1 % for the tsunami source, and 29.5 % for the local bathymetry, although the ratios varied from station to station. Simulations suggest that the amount of contribution of basin effects to the total tsunami energy depends on the location of the tsunami source.


11 March 2011 Tohoku earthquake Pacific Ocean free oscillation spectral analysis basin-wide mode numerical modeling 



The sea level data used in this study were provided through the USA National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). Some figures were drafted using the GMT software (Wessel and Smith 1991). This article benefitted from detailed, constructive review comments from two anonymous reviewers, for which we are sincerely grateful. The first author was partially supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean”Christian-Albrechts University of KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Earthquake Research Institute (ERI)The University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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