Subduction Zone: Tsunamis Generated by Megathrust Earthquakes

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Tsunami damage in Indonesia

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Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS)


Subduction-zone megathrust earthquakes, the most powerful earthquakes in the world, can produce tsunamis through a variety of structures that are missed by simple models. These include fault boundary rupture, deformation of overlying plate, splay faults and landslides. In this animation we explore the three different tsunami-producing mechanisms by examining three famous earthquakes: Japan 2011, Chile 2010, and Alaska 2014. From a hazards viewpoint, it is critical to remember that tsunamis are multiple waves that often arrive on shore for many hours after the initial wave. The above mentioned earthquakes, as well as the catastrophic 2004 Sumatra subduction-zone megathrust earthquake, have delivered powerful lessons that rapid evacuation of tsunami inundation zones is a life-saving emergency response.

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