12.1: Tsunami hazard / vulnerability maps

One of the key tools for tsunami mitigation is the study and production of hazard maps of local coastal areas to ascertain how vulnerable they are to tsunamis – this can vary greatly along shorelines depending on the intensity of the waves, undersea features and the topographical lay of the land.

Hazard maps require knowledge of the historical tsunami record in order to estimate the probability that a tsunami will occur in the future. An integral part of emergency preparedness is understanding the tsunami hazard or threat. Since earthquakes are the most probable source, seismic hazard maps are needed to identify the potential earthquake source zones. In the case of tsunamis, this also includes trying to predict the potential height of waves.

In high-risk areas where the maximum potential source of a tsunami is known – for example if there is an active earthquake subduction zone offshore – tsunami generation, propagation and run-up can be mathematically modelled and wave heights estimated. Also, historical records of previous tsunamis charting earthquake magnitudes, and wave heights and run-up and inundation patterns, can be used to support tsunami hazard predictions.