HazardHub Tsunami Risk

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HazardHub Tsunami Risk

A tsunami, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations of underwater nuclear devices), landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves which are generated by wind, or tides which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.

In the United States, tsunamis are limited to the west coast where earthquakes in the "Ring of Fire" fault zones circling the Pacific Ocean have earthquakes that can trigger tsunami waves striking the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. These three states have created "tsunami evacuation zones" to mitigate the loss of life that might result from a tsunami wave striking the west coast. The HazardHub Tsunami Risk Model moves beyond the limited tsunami evacuation zones to include all areas along the west coast that fall below certain levels above the level (sea level) of coastal waters. Figure 1 shows elevations above sea level for selected points along the California coast. A point 2 meters above sea level (left side) is at considerable risk for a tsunami inundation while the point in the right panel at 25 meters above sea level has zero risk for tsunami inudations.

Figure 1 Elevation for Selected Points