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School of Earth Sciences News

2011-12-07

SES Prof. C.K. Shum's "Double Tsunami" Discovery Presented at AGU

Posted by: Michael Seufer

Researchers have discovered that the destructive tsunami generated by the March 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake was a long-hypothesized "merging tsunami" that doubled in intensity over rugged ocean ridges, amplifying its destructive power before reaching shore.

Satellites captured not just one wave front that day, but at least two, which merged to form a single double-high wave far out at sea - one capable of traveling long distances without losing its power. Ocean ridges and undersea mountain chains pushed the waves together, but only along certain directions from the tsunami's origin.

The discovery helps explain how tsunamis can cross ocean basins to cause massive destruction at some locations while leaving others unscathed, and raises hope that scientists may be able to improve tsunami forecasts.

At a news conference Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, Y. Tony Song, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); and C.K. Shum, professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the Division of Geodetic Science, School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University, discussed the satellite data and simulations that enabled them to piece the story together.

Further details are available at: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/doubletsunami.htm