NIWA runs computer model of Vanuatu tsunami


NIWA's hydrodynamic computer models may soon be able to predict the effect of tsunamis as they happen.

Emily Lane and Philip Gillibrand of NIWA's Hydrodynamics group in Christchurch have developed a fast turnaround system for tsunami modelling. They modelled the tsunami generated by the magnitude 7.6 Vanuatu earthquake on 8 October using the hydrodynamic model RiCOM in under 4.5 hours, showing how it could be possible to monitor tsunami threats in near real-time.

The picture shows the maximum waves heights (in meters above sea level) in the ocean region surrounding the source down to the northern parts of the North Island of New Zealand. For regional sources, when the arrival time of the tsunami at the NZ coast is more than about 3 hours after generation, model forecasts could provide important information about the areas most likely to be impacted.

The earthquake parameters which were used to initialise the tsunami model were taken from the US Geological Survey Earthquake Center website. The results constitute preliminary modelling. This process has the potential to be streamlined into a real time tsunami threat assessment system, with live data from monitoring stations and buoys used to verify the model as the tsunami moves out across the ocean.


Maximum predicted wave height, Vanatu tsunami, 8 October 2009


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