National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2006

Tsunami science before and beyond Boxing Day 2004

Synolakis, C.E., and E.N. Bernard

Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lon. A, 364(1845), 2231–2265, doi: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1824 (2006)

Tsunami science has evolved differently from research on other extreme natural hazards, primarily because of the unavailability until recently of instrumental recordings of tsunamis in the open ocean. Here, the progress towards developing tsunami inundation modelling tools for use in inundation forecasting is discussed historically from the perspective of hydrodynamics. The state-of-knowledge before the 26 December 2004 tsunami is described. Remaining aspects for future research are identified. One, validated inundation models need to be further developed through benchmark testing and instrumental tsunameter measurements and standards for operational codes need to be established. Two, a methodology is needed to better quantify short-duration impact forces on structures. Three, the mapping of vulnerable continental margins to identify unrecognized hazards must proceed expeditiously, along with palaeotsunami research to establish repeat intervals. Four, the development of better coupling between deforming seafloor motions and model initialization needs further refinement. Five, in an era of global citizenship, more comprehensive educational efforts on tsunami hazard mitigation are necessary worldwide.

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