In seismology, a tsunami earthquake is an earthquake which triggers a tsunami of significantly greater magnitude, as measured by shorter-period seismic waves. The term was introduced by Japanese seismologist Hiroo Kanamori in 1972. Such events are a result of relatively slow rupture velocities. They are particularly dangerous as a large tsunami may arrive at a coastline with little or no warning.
The distinguishing feature for a tsunami earthquake is that the release of seismic energy occurs at long periods (low frequencies) relative to typical tsunamigenic earthquakes. Earthquakes of this type do not generally show the peaks of seismic wave activity associated with ordinary events. A tsunami earthquake can be defined as an undersea earthquake for which the surface wave magnitude Ms differs markedly from the moment magnitude Mw, because the former is calculated from surface waves with a period of about 20 seconds, whereas the latter is a measure of the total energy release at all frequencies. The displacements associated with tsunami earthquakes are consistently greater than those associated with ordinary tsunamigenic earthquakes of the same moment magnitude, typically more than double. Rupture velocities for tsunami earthquakes are typically about 1.0 km per second, compared to the more normal 2.5–3.5 km per second for other megathrust earthquakes. These slow rupture speeds lead to greater directivity, with the potential to cause higher run-ups on short coastal sections. Tsunami earthquakes mainly occur at subduction zones where there is a large accretionary wedge or where sediments are being subducted, as this weaker material leads to the slower rupture velocities.
Analysis of tsunami earthquakes such as the 1946 Aleutian Islands earthquake shows that the release of seismic moment takes place at an unusually long period. Calculations of the effective moment derived from surface waves show a rapid increase with decrease in the frequency of the seismic waves, whereas for ordinary earthquakes it remains almost constant with frequency. The duration over which the seabed is deformed has little effect on the size of the resultant tsunami for times up to several minutes. The observation of long period energy release is consistent with unusually slow rupture propagation velocities. Slow rupture velocities are linked to propagation through relatively weak material, such as poorly consolidated sedimentary rocks. Most tsunami earthquakes have been linked to rupture within the uppermost part of a subduction zone, where an accretionary wedge is developed in the hanging wall of the megathrust. Tsunami earthquakes have also been linked to the presence of a thin layer of subducted sedimentary rock along the uppermost part of the plate interface, as is thought to be present in areas of significant topography at the top of the oceanic crust, and where propagation was in an up-dip direction, possibly reaching the seafloor.
Identifying tsunami earthquakes
Standard methods of giving early warnings for tsunamis rely on data that will not typically identify a tsunami earthquake as tsunamigenic and therefore fail to predict possibly damaging tsunamis.
On 15 June 1896 the Sanriku coast was struck by a devastating tsunami with a maximum wave height of 38.2 m, which caused more than 22,000 deaths. The residents of the coastal towns and villages were taken completely by surprise because the tsunami had only been preceded by a relatively weak shock. The magnitude of the tsunami has been estimated as Mt=8.2 while the earthquake shaking only indicated a magnitude of Ms=7.2. This discrepancy in magnitude requires more than just a slow rupture velocity. Modelling of tsunami generation that takes into account additional uplift associated with deformation of the softer sediments of the accretionary wedge caused by horizontal movement of the 'backstop' in the overriding plate has successfully explained the discrepancy, estimating a magnitude of Mw=8.0–8.1.
Other tsunami earthquakes
- 1605 Nankai earthquake
- 1677 Bōsō earthquake
- 1907 Sumatra earthquake
- April 1923 Kamchatka earthquake and tsunami
- 1932 Jalisco earthquakes
- 1946 Aleutian Islands earthquake
- November 1960 Peru earthquake
- 1963 Kuril Islands earthquake
- 1975 Kuril Islands earthquake
- 1982 Tonga earthquake
- 1994 Java earthquake
- 1996 Chimbote earthquake
- 2006 Pangandaran earthquake and tsunami
- 2010 Mentawai earthquake and tsunami
- 2012 El Salvador earthquake
- 2015 Torishima earthquake - A moderate Mw 5.7 earthquake near Tori-shima generated waves with a maximum amplitude of 0.5 meters at Hachijō-jima.
- Kanamori, H. (1972). "Mechanism of tsunami earthquakes" (PDF). Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. 6 (5): 346–359. Bibcode:1972PEPI....6..346K. doi:10.1016/0031-9201(72)90058-1. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- Bryant, E. (2008). "5. Earthquake-generated tsunami". Tsunami: the underrated hazard (2 ed.). Springer. pp. 129–138. ISBN 978-3-540-74273-9. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- Polet, J.; Kanamori H. (2000). "Shallow subduction zone earthquakes and their tsunamigenic potential". Geophysical Journal International. 142 (3): 684–702. Bibcode:2000GeoJI.142..684P. doi:10.1046/j.1365-246X.2000.00205.x.
- Tsuboi, S. (2000). "Application of Mwp to tsunami earthquake". Geophysical Research Letters. 27 (19): 3105. Bibcode:2000GeoRL..27.3105T. doi:10.1029/2000GL011735. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- Tanioka, Y.; Seno T. (2001). "Sediment effect on tsunami generation of the 1896 Sanriku tsunami earthquake" (PDF). Geophysical Research Letters. 28 (17): 3389–3392. Bibcode:2001GeoRL..28.3389T. doi:10.1029/2001GL013149. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- Kanamori, H.; Kikuchi M. (1993). "The 1992 Nicaragua earthquake: a slow tsunami earthquake associated with subducted sediments" (PDF). Nature. 361 (6414): 714–716. Bibcode:1993Natur.361..714K. doi:10.1038/361714a0. S2CID 4322936. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
- Ishibashi, K. (2004). "Status of historical seismology in Japan" (PDF). Annals of Geophysics. 47 (2/3): 339–368. Retrieved 22 November 2009.
- Yanagisawa, H.; Goto, K.; Sugawara, D.; Kanamaru, K.; Iwamoto, N.; Takamori, Y. (2016). "Tsunami earthquake can occur elsewhere along the Japan Trench—Historical and geological evidence for the 1677 earthquake and tsunami". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 121 (5): 3504–3516. Bibcode:2016JGRB..121.3504Y. doi:10.1002/2015JB012617.
- Lee, William H. K.; Rivera, Luis; Kanamori, Hiroo (1 October 2010). "Historical seismograms for unravelling a mysterious earthquake: The 1907 Sumatra Earthquake". Geophysical Journal International. 183 (1): 358–374. Bibcode:2010GeoJI.183..358K. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2010.04731.x. ISSN 0956-540X.
- Martin, Stacey Servito; Li, Linlin; Okal, Emile A.; Morin, Julie; Tetteroo, Alexander E. G.; Switzer, Adam D.; Sieh, Kerry E. (26 March 2019). "Reassessment of the 1907 Sumatra "Tsunami Earthquake" Based on Macroseismic, Seismological, and Tsunami Observations, and Modeling". Pure and Applied Geophysics. 176 (7): 2831–2868. Bibcode:2019PApGe.176.2831M. doi:10.1007/s00024-019-02134-2. ISSN 1420-9136. S2CID 135197944.
- Salaree, A., Okal, E.A. (2017). "The "Tsunami Earthquake" of 13 April 1923 in Northern Kamchatka: Seismological and Hydrodynamic Investigations" (PDF). Pure and Applied Geophysics. 175 (4): 1257–1285. doi:10.1007/s00024-017-1721-9. S2CID 134560632. Retrieved 5 June 2021.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Okal E.A.; Borrero J.C. (2011). "The 'tsunami earthquake' of 1932 June 22 in Manzanillo, Mexico: seismological study and tsunami simulations". Geophysical Journal International. 187 (3): 1443–1459. Bibcode:2011GeoJI.187.1443O. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05199.x.
- Paul R. Lundgren; Emile A. Okal; Douglas A. Wiens (10 November 1989). "Rupture characteristics of the 1982 Tonga and 1986 Kermadec earthquakes". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 94 (B11): 15521–15539. doi:10.1029/JB094iB11p15521.
- Ammon, C.J.; Kanamori H.; Lay T.; Velasco A.A. (2006). "The 17 July 2006 Java tsunami earthquake" (PDF). Geophysical Research Letters. 33 (24): L24308. Bibcode:2006GeoRL..3324308A. doi:10.1029/2006GL028005. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
- Hill E.M.; Borrero J.C.; Huang Z.; Qiu Q.; Banarjee B.; Natawidjaja D.H.; Elosegui P.; Fritz H.M.; Suwargadi B.W., Pranantyo I.R., Li L., Macpherson K.A., Skanavis V., Synolakis C.E. & Sieh K. (2012). "The 2010 Mw 7.8 Mentawai earthquake: Very shallow source of a rare tsunami earthquake determined from tsunami field survey and near-field GPS data". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 117 (B6): n/a. Bibcode:2012JGRB..117.6402H. doi:10.1029/2012JB009159. hdl:10261/87207.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Ye, Lingling; Lay, Thorne; Kanamori, Hiroo (2013). "Large earthquake rupture process variations on the Middle America megathrust" (PDF). Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 381: 147–155. Bibcode:2013E&PSL.381..147Y. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2013.08.042. Retrieved 21 April 2021.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Osamu Sandanbata, Shingo Watada, Kenji Satake, Yoshio Fukao, Hiroko Sugioka, Aki Ito & Hajime Shiobara (2018). "Source Amplitude Estimation Based on Green's Law: Application to the 2015 Volcanic Tsunami Earthquake Near Torishima, South of Japan" (PDF). Pure and Applied Geophysics. 175: 1371–1385. doi:10.1007/s00024-017-1746-0. S2CID 135266645. Retrieved 4 June 2021.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)