Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 171, Issue 12, pp 3217–3228 | Cite as

Short Wave Amplification and Extreme Runup by the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami

  • Takenori ShimozonoEmail author
  • Haiyang Cui
  • Julie D. Pietrzak
  • Hermann M. Fritz
  • Akio Okayasu
  • Andrew J. Hooper


Watermarks found during the post-event surveys of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami confirmed extreme runup heights at several locations along the central to northern part of the Sanriku coast, Japan. We measured the maximum height of nearly 40 m above mean sea level at a narrow coastal valley of the Aneyoshi district. Wave records by offshore GPS-buoys suggest that the remarkably high runup was associated with a leading, impulsive crest of the tsunami amplified by local bathymetry and topography. In order to elucidate the underlying amplification mechanism, we apply a numerical model to reproduce the measured distribution of tsunami heights along the target coastline. A series of numerical tests under different boundary conditions suggests that a spectral component with a dominant period of 4–5 min in the leading wave play a key role in generating the extreme runup. Further analyses focusing on the Aneyoshi district confirm that the short wavelength component undergoes critical amplification in a narrow inlet. Our findings highlight the importance of resolving offshore waveforms as well as local bathymetry and topography when simulating extreme runup events.


Tsunami runup amplification topography Sanriku coast 



The post-tsunami survey was financially supported by the JST J-RAPID project (11103018). H.M.F. was supported by NSF RAPID award (CMMI-1135768).


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takenori Shimozono
    • 1
    Email author
  • Haiyang Cui
    • 2
  • Julie D. Pietrzak
    • 2
  • Hermann M. Fritz
    • 3
  • Akio Okayasu
    • 4
  • Andrew J. Hooper
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Civil EngineeringThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Faculty of Civil Engineering and GeosciencesDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  3. 3.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ocean SciencesTokyo University of Marine Science and TechnologyTokyoJapan
  5. 5.School of Earth and EnvironmentUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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