Japan: Pacific tsunami wave height model (image)


This model comes from the Center for Tsunami Research at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and displays the anticipated wave heights of the tsunami as it travels across the Pacific, after the 8.9 earthquake that struck northern Japan on March 11, 2011.

The largest wave heights are expected near the earthquake epicenter, off Japan. The wave will decrease in height as it travels across the deep Pacific but grow taller as it nears coastal areas. In general, as the energy of the wave decreases with distance, the near shore heights will also decrease (e.g., coastal Hawaii will not expect heights of that encountered in coastal Japan).The second image shows the depth of the Pacific Ocean floor. Notice the similarity between areas of low wave height and deeper areas of the ocean.
Animated view here, and High-resolution here.



    1. No the moon is still at it’s furthest away right now, even though it will be at it’s closest in a week or so.

  1. I was wondering why there would be higher waves going away from the main group, heading straight for the Pacific NW, but it looks like there’s a comma-shaped underwater mountain range north of the Midway islands that is deflecting some of the waves in that direction.

    Very fascinating in a horrifying kind of way.

  2. Interesting how New Guinea and the islands to the east including New Britain, the Bismarck Archipelago and the Solomons seemed to have effectively shielded Australia from the waves.

  3. I was surprised at how hard the hit was in North America. Twelve hours after the earthquake it had enough energy to cause flooding and deaths.

  4. Is it an illusion or is most of the water pushed away from Japan?? The 2004 tsunami had estimated wave heights of 100 ft while the worst seen in Japan has been 30 ft.

    I’m just wondering if there is something about the topography that protected Japan from this being so much worse, or perhaps the earthquake being so close limited the amount of water that could be pushed toward Japan in the first place.

    As bad as it is in Japan right now it just seems like it could have been so much worse when compared to what was seen in 2004 and I’m just curious to know if there is some science behind the differences.

  5. Living in Hawaii, this really illustrates to me how essential it is that we have mandatory evacuations in possible tsunami inundation zones.

  6. I don’t know how meters translates into feet but the tallest waves were well over 10 meters tall possibly even 15 meters high. The reason why there were fewer deaths is due to an early warning system and sea walls but even in one town with 10m high walls the waves easily spilled over these barriers.
    One town with the worst casualties had 9000 survivors out of about 18000 at last count.

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