Multiple Wave Arrivals Contribute to Damage and Tsunami Duration on the US West Coast

  • Aggeliki Barberopoulou
  • Mark Randall Legg
  • Edison Gica
  • Geoff Legg
Part of the Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research book series (NTHR, volume 35)


Tsunamis persist long after the triggering geophysical events diminish. The Tohoku, Japan tsunami of March 11, 2011 was an extreme event that continued to disturb the Pacific Ocean for many days following its initiation. Historically Japan was considered a source of low tsunami wave energy for the US West Coast. However, damage in California from the last great Japan tsunami was second to that suffered during the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Computer animations of the catastrophic Japan tsunami and other recent significant tsunamis combined with source wavelet cross-correlations help to identify multiple paths of tsunami wave energy refracted and reflected by complex bathymetry across the Pacific Ocean basin. Using recent large tsunamigenic earthquakes we demonstrate that the long duration and damage suffered in the far field during the great 2011 Tohoku Japan tsunami was a result of several factors. Shallow water waveguides and continental margins act as tsunami lenses and mirrors to direct the wave energy to diverse locations around the ocean basin; directionality affected by islands and seamounts, large reflections off of South America and Oceania (New Guinea region), bathymetric features far and near the area of impact and shelf geometry may delay and further amplify the main tsunami energy. This contribution of Ocean basin scatterers can be estimated a-priori and can help define impact zones vs. shadow zones and duration of events. This has direct implications on the prediction of tsunami impacts because the US West Coast often appears to receive maximum wave heights much later than first wave arrivals from far field tsunamis.


Tsunami Tohoku 



We would like to acknowledge NOAA Center for Tsunami Research for determining the tsunami sources for the tsunami events mentioned in this manuscript.

This publication is contribution 3708 from NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and funded by the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) under NOAA Cooperative Agreement No. NA100AR4320148, Contribution # 1862.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aggeliki Barberopoulou
    • 1
  • Mark Randall Legg
    • 2
  • Edison Gica
    • 3
  • Geoff Legg
    • 2
  1. 1.GNS ScienceLower HuttNew Zealand
  2. 2.Legg GeophysicalHuntington BeachUSA
  3. 3.NOAA Center for Tsunami ResearchJISAO-University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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