The Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011 unleashed a powerful tsunami that struck the coastal region and left death and extensive destruction in its wake. This event prompted many investigations to assess the damage and the extent to which the tsunami affected areas along and adjacent to the coast. In this paper, we use aerial photography and a digital elevation model to assess the inundation extent and run-up height of the tsunami along the coast of Iwate prefecture. First, the size of the area affected by the tsunami was calculated by using the observed borderline trace of its farthest reach inland. Then, elevations above sea level were determined for various points along the trace. This required a variety of approaches because of the variation in the topography and gradient of the slope along the coastline from flat to very steep. The results of our investigation showed that aerial photography can be used successfully to obtain a broad approximate assessment of the reach of a tsunami and associated damage, thereby avoiding the need for immediate on-site inspections. Furthermore, our results suggested that the tsunami run-up height in 2011 could have reached more than 40 m at places scattered along the Iwate coast.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Cabinet Office, Government of Japan (2012) White paper on disaster management 2011, Japan
Comprehensive Disaster Prevention Unit, General Affairs Department of Iwate Prefecture (2015) Human and building damage list of the great east Japan earthquake published on 31 July 2015. http://www2.pref.iwate.jp/~bousai/taioujoukyou/. Accessed 26 Oct 2015
Crisis Countermeasure Unit, General Affairs Department of Miyagi Prefecture (2015) Human and building damage list of the great east Japan earthquake published on 10 Sept 2015. http://www.pref.miyagi.jp/site/ej-earthquake/km-higaizyoukyou.html. Accessed 26 Oct 2015
Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, MLIT (2012a) Aerial photographs around the great east Japan earthquake disaster area. http://www.gsi.go.jp/gazochosa/gazochosa50002.html. Accessed 26 October 2015
Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, MLIT (2012b) Maps and geospatial information. http://www.gsi.go.jp/kiban/. Accessed 26 Oct 2015
Inukai N, Hosoyamada T, Lu M, Kumakura T, Minami M, Irie H (2012) The survey of the north Iwate area due to the 2011 off the pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake. J Jpn Soc Civil Eng Ser B3 68(2):19–24
Japan Meteorological Agency (2012) Report on the 2011 off the pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake. In: Technical report of the Japan meteorological agency 133
Kayane K, Roh M, Tanaka H, Umeda M, Mano A, Kawagoe S, Tsuchiya M, Mitobe Y (2014) Tsunami propagation into rivers in Tohoku district. J Jpn Soc Civil Eng Ser B1 70(4):1165–1170
Mori N (2012) Survey of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake tsunami damage. Jpn J Multiph Flow 26(1):19–27
Mori N, Takahashi T, The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami Joint Survey Group (2012) Nationwide post event survey and analysis of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake tsunami. Coast Eng J 54(1):1–27. doi:10.1142/S0578563412500015
Prefectural Land Development Section, Iwate Prefecture (2013a) North-Sanriku coastal protection basic plan
Prefectural Land Development Section, Iwate Prefecture (2013b) South-Sanriku coastal protection basic plan
Satake K, Fujii Y, Harada T, Namegaya Y (2013) Time and space distribution of coseismic slip of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake as inferred from tsunami waveform data. Bull Seismol Soc Am 103(2B):1473–1492. doi:10.1785/0120120122
Suzuki T, Sasaki J, Tajima Y, Hayano K (2012) Field survey of the 2011 of the pacific coast of Tohoku earthquake tsunami disaster to the south of Iwate prefecture. J Jpn Soc Civil Eng Ser B3 68(2):25–30
Tsunami Technical Committee, Iwate Prefecture (2012) 1st–8th Iwate prefecture tsunami disaster prevention technology expert committee. http://www.pref.iwate.jp/shingikai/kendo/tsunami/index.html. Accessed 26 Oct 2015
Field survey data were provided by the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami Joint Survey Group. Coastal topography and elevation data were provided by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. Tsunami inundated area output was given by Iwate prefecture. This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 15K20849.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Yanagawa, R., Koshino, S. Tsunami inundation area and run-up height in the Iwate coastal region following the Great East Japan Earthquake as estimated from aerial photographs and digital elevation data. Nat Hazards 82, 2051–2073 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-016-2285-1
- Tsunami inundation area
- Tsunami run-up height
- Iwate coast
- Aerial photograph