AMS Forum: Climate Aspects of Hydrometeorology
21st Conference on Hydrology


The Impact of an Earthquake-Generated Tsunami on the Earth-Atmosphere System: Year 2004 Indian Ocean Case History Example

Ayorinde O. Idowu, Univ. of Houston, Houston, TX

The evolution of an earthquake-generated tsunami waves has three distinctive stages including (i) the generation of an earthquake, (ii) propagation; and (iii) inundation of dry land. The various stages are characterized by certain seismic and geological processes that have a direct impact on the Earth-atmosphere system, which essentially involves the interactions of the atmosphere with other components of the Earth system such as the lithosphere (earth's crust), hydrosphere (hydrologic system), and the biosphere (living organisms). The various interactions have a resultant effect on the climate and weather, while producing extreme weather conditions in particular locations at certain time.

The main objectives of the paper include an investigation of the evolution of an earthquake-generated tsunami, and thereby evaluate its effect on the shoreline environment, and the adjacent dry land. A study of a case history example from Year 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami tragic incident revealed three main processes including the tsunami generation, transoceanic propagation, and eventual inundation of the surrounding dry land. The focus of the earthquake-generated tsunami is located on the flip face of a reverse fault structural system. Seafloor displacement along the fault plane of a fault triggers off a tsunami event which eventually produces a large earthquake. The earthquake is propagated along the ocean bottom rock (oceanic crust) by radiating seismic energy that cause the displacement of the entire water column, powers the tsunami that eventually traveled at very high speed through the atmosphere.

Data also revealed that the tsunami in deep water has a small wave height and a long wavelength, and passes a sailing ship unnoticed. It can create long wavelength up to 1,000 kilometers, while the wave height is usually low having amplitude of about 1 to 2 meters high. A tsunami can propagate long distances before it strikes a shoreline hundreds or thousands of kilometers from the earthquake source, while it carries a large volume of water in the waves. The Indian Ocean Tsunami tragic incident, for an example, extended its catastrophic effects to the coast of East Africa

Interpretation of the Satellite images along with aerial photographs of the tsunami affected regions proved to be an effective tool for locating areas with severe damages on the Chadi resort in Plucket, Thailand including the coastal areas that were totally submerged and inundated in December 2004. An analysis of the global map on the historical trend of large tsunami incidents since 1900 also revealed that tsunami incidents occurred mostly along the major tectonic boundaries of the Earth.

Joint Poster Session 1, CLIMATE ASPECTS OF HYDROMETEOROLOGY POSTERS (Joint with 21st Conference on Hydrology)
Monday, 15 January 2007, 2:30 PM-4:00 PM, Exhibit Hall C

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