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Development, testing, and applications of site-specific tsunami inundation models for real-time forecasting

L. Tang1,2, V. V. Titov,2 and C. D. Chamberlin1,2

1Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO), University of Washington, Seattle, Washington USA

2Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, Washington, USA

Journal of Geophysical Research, 114, , C12025, doi:10.1029/2009JC005476
Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.
Further electronic distribution is not allowed.


The study describes the development, testing and applications of site-specific tsunami inundation models (forecast models) for use in NOAA's tsunami forecast and warning system. The model development process includes sensitivity studies of tsunami wave characteristics in the nearshore and inundation, for a range of model grid setups, resolutions and parameters. To demonstrate the process, four forecast models in Hawaii, at Hilo, Kahului, Honolulu, and Nawiliwili are described. The models were validated with fourteen historical tsunamis and compared with numerical results from reference inundation models of higher resolution. The accuracy of the modeled maximum wave height is greater than 80% when the observation is greater than 0.5 m; when the observation is below 0.5 m the error is less than 0.3 m. The error of the modeled arrival time of the first peak is within 3% of the travel time. The developed forecast models were further applied to hazard assessment from simulated magnitude 7.5, 8.2, 8.7 and 9.3 tsunamis based on subduction zone earthquakes in the Pacific. The tsunami hazard assessment study indicates that use of a seismic magnitude alone for a tsunami source assessment is inadequate to achieve such accuracy for tsunami amplitude forecasts. The forecast models apply local bathymetric and topographic information, and utilize dynamic boundary conditions from the tsunami source function database, to provide site- and event-specific coastal predictions. Only by combining a Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami-constrained tsunami magnitude with site-specific high-resolution models can the forecasts completely cover the evolution of earthquake-generated tsunami waves: generation, deep ocean propagation, and coastal inundation. Wavelet analysis of the tsunami waves suggests the coastal tsunami frequency responses at different sites are dominated by the local bathymetry, yet they can be partially related to the locations of the tsunami sources. The study also demonstrates the nonlinearity between offshore and nearshore maximum wave amplitudes.

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