Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 1213–1227, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-12-1213-2012

Special issue: Sea hazards

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 1213–1227, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-12-1213-2012

Research article 27 Apr 2012

Research article | 27 Apr 2012

Adaptive modelling of long-distance wave propagation and fine-scale flooding during the Tohoku tsunami

S. Popinet S. Popinet
  • National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research, P.O. Box 14-901, Kilbirnie, Wellington, New Zealand

Abstract. The 11 March 2011 Tohoku tsunami is simulated using the quadtree-adaptive Saint-Venant solver implemented within the Gerris Flow Solver. The spatial resolution is adapted dynamically from 250 m in flooded areas up to 250 km for the areas at rest. Wave fronts are tracked at a resolution of 1.8 km in deep water. The simulation domain extends over 73° of both latitude and longitude and covers a significant part of the north-west Pacific. The initial wave elevation is obtained from a source model derived using seismic data only. Accurate long-distance wave prediction is demonstrated through comparison with DART buoys timeseries and GLOSS tide gauges records. The model also accurately predicts fine-scale flooding compared to both satellite and survey data. Adaptive mesh refinement leads to orders-of-magnitude gains in computational efficiency compared to non-adaptive methods. The study confirms that consistent source models for tsunami initiation can be obtained from seismic data only. However, while the observed extreme wave elevations are reproduced by the model, they are located further south than in the surveyed data. Comparisons with inshore wave buoys data indicate that this may be due to an incomplete understanding of the local wave generation mechanisms.

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