National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2015

A Tsunami Forecast Model for Santa Monica, California

Arcas, D.

NOAA OAR Special Report, PMEL Tsunami Forecast Series: Vol. 9, 136 pp, doi: 10.7289/V5D50JX8, Available online (2015)

The present study documents the development of a tsunami forecast model for Santa Monica, California. Santa Monica is a highly populated major resort town with extensive entertainment areas along the beach, visited every year by thousands of local residents and tourists. Santa Monica is 12.5 km north of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), a critical facility in the event of a natural disaster. Thus, the forecast model grid covers the communities of Venice Beach, Marina del Rey, and El Segundo, in order to include LAX. Special attention was also given to ensure the Channel Islands, offshore of Santa Monica Bay, were represented with enough resolution in the forecast model grids to adequately capture the correct tsunami wave dynamics between the various islands and the main coast in the model. In order to guarantee the accuracy, robustness, and stability of the forecast model in an operational environment, 13 historical events have been simulated and results compared with tide gauge observations whenever data were available. In addition, the robustness of the model to very large events has been tested by simulating 19 synthetic Mw 9.3 events originating in different subduction zones throughout the Pacific Ocean. Results from both the historical and synthetic simulations show that Santa Monica has been relatively free from major tsunami impact in recent history. However, tsunamigenic earthquakes in certain areas of the Pacific Ocean can generate large tsunamis in the Santa Monica region. Contrary to what one might expect, the areas that pose the greatest tsunami risk to Santa Monica do not seem to be the near-field Cascadia or Mexican coasts, but rather the far-field Manus Oceanic Convergence Boundary, in the Melanesia area of the southwest Pacific.

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