National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2007

Implications of the 26 December 2004 Sumatra–Andaman Earthquake on tsunami forecast and assessment models for great subduction-zone earthquakes

Geist, E.L., V.V. Titov, D. Arcas, F.F. Pollitz, and S.L. Bilek

Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 97(1A), S249–S270, doi: 10.1785/0120050619 (2007)

Results from different tsunami forecasting and hazard assessment models are compared with observed tsunami wave heights from the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Forecast models are based on initial earthquake information and are used to estimate tsunami wave heights during propagation. An empirical forecast relationship based only on seismic moment provides a close estimate to the observed mean regional and maximum local tsunami runup heights for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami but underestimates mean regional tsunami heights at azimuths in line with the tsunami beaming pattern (e.g., Sri Lanka, Thailand). Standard forecast models developed from subfault discretization of earthquake rupture, in which deep-ocean sea level observations are used to constrain slip, are also tested. Forecast models of this type use tsunami time-series measurements at points in the deep ocean. As a proxy for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a transect of deep-ocean tsunami amplitudes recorded by satellite altimetry is used to constrain slip along four subfaults of the M > 9 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake. This proxy model performs well in comparison to observed tsunami wave heights, travel times, and inundation patterns at Banda Aceh. Hypothetical tsunami hazard assessments models based on end-member estimates for average slip and rupture length (M 9.0-9.3) are compared with tsunami observations. Using average slip (low end member) and rupture length (high end member) (M 9.14) consistent with many seismic, geodetic, and tsunami inversions adequately estimates tsunami runup in most regions, except the extreme runup in the western Aceh province. The high slip that occurred in the southern part of the rupture zone linked to runup in this location is a larger fluctuation than expected from standard stochastic slip models. In addition, excess moment release (~9%) deduced from geodetic studies in comparison to seismic moment estimates may generate additional tsunami energy, if the exponential time constant of slip is less than approximately 1 hr. Overall, there is significant variation in assessed runup heights caused by quantifiable uncertainty in both first-order source parameters (e.g., rupture length, slip-length scaling) and spatiotemporal complexity of earthquake rupture.

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