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Far-Field Tsunami Hazard in New Zealand Ports


We present the results of a numerical modeling study investigating the effects of far-field tsunamis in New Zealand ports. Four sites (Marsden Point, Tauranga, Harbor, Port Taranaki and Lyttelton Harbor) were selected based on a combination of factors such as economic importance and the availability of historical and/or instrumental data. Numerical models were created using the ComMIT tsunami modeling tool and the Method Of Splitting Tsunami (MOST) hydrodynamic model. Comparison of model results to measured data from recent historical events showed that, for particular sites and events, the model correlated well with the timing and amplitude of the observed tsunami, and, in most cases, there was generally good agreement between the and modeled tsunami heights and current speeds. A sensitivity analysis for tsunami heights and current speeds was conducted using a suite of large (M W 9) tsunamigenic earthquake sources situated at regular 15° intervals in azimuth along the Pacific Rim while another set of scenarios focused on regional tsunami sources in the Southwest Pacific. Model results were analyzed for tsunami heights and current speeds as a function of the source region. In terms of currents, the analysis identified where speeds were greatest and which source was responsible. Results suggested that tsunamis originating from Central America produced the strongest response in New Zealand. The modeling was also used to determine the timing and duration of potentially dangerous current speeds as well as minimum ‘safe depths’ for vessel evacuation offshore. This study was motivated by the desire to reduce damage and operational losses via improved forecasting of far-field tsunamis at New Zealand ports. It is important that forecasts are accurate since tsunami damage to ships and facilities is expensive and can be mitigated given timely warnings and because preventable false alarms are also costly in terms of lost productivity. The modeling presented here will underpin efforts to produce port-specific guidance and information in the event of future Pacific tsunamis.

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The Natural Hazards Research Platform of New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment provided funding for this study. Aggeliki Barberopoulou assisted in the development of bathymetric grids for Port Taranaki and Marsden Point. Liam Wotherspoon provided the data used in Fig. 2.

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Correspondence to Jose C. Borrero.

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Borrero, J.C., Goring, D.G., Greer, S.D. et al. Far-Field Tsunami Hazard in New Zealand Ports. Pure Appl. Geophys. 172, 731–756 (2015).

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  • Tsunami
  • ports
  • long waves
  • earthquake
  • natural hazards
  • New Zealand