National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2013

Tide-tsunami interaction in Columbia River, as implied by historical data and numerical simulations

Tolkova, E.

Pure Appl. Geophys., 170(6–8), Pageoph Topical Volumes: Tsunamis in the World Ocean, K. Satake, A. Rabinovich, D.D. Howes, and J.C. Borrero (Eds.), 1115–1126, doi: 10.1007/s00024-012-0518-0 (2013)

The East Japan tsunami of 11 March 2011 propagated more than 100 km upstream in the Columbia River. Visual analysis of its records along the river suggests that the tsunami propagation was strongly affected by tidal conditions. A numerical model of the lower Columbia River populated with tides and a downstream current was developed. Simulations of the East Japan tsunami propagating up the tidal river reproduced the observed features of tsunami waveform transformation, which did not emerge in simulations of the same wave propagating in a quiescent-state river. This allows us to clearly attribute those features to nonlinear interaction with the tidal river environment. The simulation also points to possible amplification of a tsunami wave crest propagating right after the high tide, previously deduced from the recordings of the 1964 Alaska tsunami in the river.

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