Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Research article
16 Apr 2012
Research article |  | 16 Apr 2012

Modeling propagation and inundation of the 11 March 2011 Tohoku tsunami

F. Løvholt, G. Kaiser, S. Glimsdal, L. Scheele, C. B. Harbitz, and G. Pedersen

Abstract. On 11 March 2011 the Tohoku tsunami devastated the east coast of Japan, claiming thousands of casualties and destroying coastal settlements and infrastructure. In this paper tsunami generation, propagation, and inundation are modeled to hindcast the event. Earthquake source models with heterogeneous slips are developed in order to match tsunami observations, including a best fit initial sea surface elevation with water levels up to 8 m. Tsunami simulations were compared to buoys in the Pacific, showing good agreement. In the far field the frequency dispersion provided a significant reduction even for the leading wave. Furthermore, inundation simulations were performed for ten different study areas. The results compared well with run-up measurements available and trim lines derived from satellite images, but with some overestimation of the modeled surface elevation in the northern part of the Sanriku coast. For inundation modeling this work aimed at using freely available, medium-resolution data for topography, bottom friction, and bathymetry, which are easily accessible in the framework of a rapid assessment. Although these data come along with some inaccuracies, the results of the tsunami simulations suggest that their use is feasible for application in rapid tsunami hazard assessments. A heterogeneous source model is essential to simulate the observed distribution of the run-up correctly, though.