NOAA 2006-R271
Contact: Delores Clark
NOAA News Releases 2006
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NOAA’s Center for Tsunami Research has completed a comprehensive tsunami modeling study for Pearl Harbor. The study concludes that the risk of a destructive tsunami inside Pearl Harbor is low. Model results show minor inundation even for the worst case scenario.

The study has direct relevance for NOAA’s decision to locate its new Pacific Regional Center on Ford Island – located in the middle of Pearl Harbor. The new center will consolidate NOAA operations, including the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, whose offices are currently scattered throughout the island of Oahu. The study results have been incorporated into NOAA’s environmental assessment as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The study shows that none of the historic tsunamis, nor any of the 18 modeled scenario events – based on magnitude 9.3 earthquakes – caused inundation at the proposed location of the NOAA facility,” said Eddie Bernard, director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environment Lab, which operates the research center. “The models indicate that the greatest rise in water levels at Ford Island would be less than five feet above mean high water level. The NOAA building site is located at 10 feet above mean high water level.”

Scientists created a database of 804 tsunami sources from 15 subduction zones in the Pacific for the study. They used the most advanced suite of tsunami models capable of simulating three processes of tsunami evolution: generation, transoceanic propagation, and inundation of dry land.

These tsunami models have been thoroughly validated and are the bases for the new U.S. tsunami forecast system being implemented at NOAA’s Tsunami Warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska. The models use the best available data on water depths and land elevations for Pearl Harbor, including any recent changes. This is necessary as tsunamis respond to small variations of water depths near shore, the location of the shoreline, and the land elevations within any possible inundation zones.

“The study validates historic and anecdotal records which show no evidence of destructive tsunamis in Pearl Harbor from distant sources,” added Bernard.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts, and protects.

On the Web:


NOAA Technical Memorandum, “Assessment of Potential Tsunami Impact for Pearl
Harbor Hawaii”: