National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2001

Tsunami scattering provinces in the Pacific Ocean

Mofjeld, H.O., V.V. Titov, F.I. González, and J.C. Newman

Geophys. Res. Lett., 28(2), 335–337, doi: 10.1029/2000GL011710 (2001)

We use a scattering index to identify the regions in the Pacific Ocean where topographic features scatter significant tsunami energy. Based on linear wave theory, the index is computed from the Smith/Sandwell topography. Consistent with numerical simulations, it shows that there is a narrow band of strong scatterers running across the ocean from the northwest (Emperor Seamount Chain) to the southeast (Easter Island Fracture Zone). The eastern Pacific is nearly devoid of scatterers, except for this band and isolated features along the eastern margin. To the west of the band lies a region with moderate scattering; the strongest scattering occurs in the southwestern Pacific. The Pacific is rimmed by island arcs and shallow continental shelves that also trap and scatter tsunamis. These results show that numerical models of trans-Pacific tsunamis must resolve the effects of the small-scale topography in order to accurately simulate their wave patterns and amplitudes.

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