National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

NOAA’s historical tsunami event database, raw and processed water level data, and model output relevant to the 11 March 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake and tsunami

Dunbar, P., M. Eblé, G. Mungov, H. McCullough, and E. Harris

In Tsunami Events and Lessons Learned, Environmental and Societal Significance, Y.A. Kontar, V. Santiago-Fandiño, T. Takahashi (ed.), Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research, Vol. 35, Springer Netherlands, 113-127, ISBN: 978-94-007-7268-7 (Print) 978-94-007-7269-4 (Online) (2014)

On 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 Mw earthquake occurred near the east coast of Honshu Island, Japan. The earthquake generated a tsunami with wave heights up to 40 m triggering a response from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is the lead federal agency responsible for tsunami warnings issuance, technology innovation, research, and mitigation for the United States. These activities are matrixed across several closely integrated bureaus, including the National Weather Service National Data Buoy Center, Tsunami Warning Centers, and UNESCO/IOC – NOAA International Tsunami Information Center; the National Ocean Service Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory; and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC). Each of these bureaus work together to improve tsunami forecasting and thereby protect lives. Immediately following the March 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, all NOAA offices were involved in complimentary tsunami activities. In this paper, we describe the status of data associated with this tsunami event, review the processing and availability of tide gauge and tsunameter data, including Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART®) and discuss the uses of these data in tsunami models. The basic data in the NGDC historical event databases include: date, time, event location, magnitude of the phenomenon, and socio-economic information such as the total number of fatalities and dollar damage estimates. The tsunami database includes additional information on runups (locations where tsunami waves were observed by eyewitnesses, post-tsunami field surveys, tide gauges, or deep ocean sensors). Therefore, an introduction and summary of the effects of the earthquake and tsunami is also included.

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