Tsunami Propagation

Unless you’ve been under a rock, by now you’ve heard of the Sumatra earthquake and tsunamis that have killed thousands in countries around the Indian Ocean. Immediately after the quake, which happened on Sunday, the death toll was thought to be a few thousand. Now, as of this writing, the estimates for the dead are 56,000 to 58,000, depending on the source, with tens of thousands of people still “missing.” Additionally, the U.N. predicts that waterbourne diseases like malaria and cholera could double the current figure.

In short, this is one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. Emails of surviving eyewitnesses to the event are amazing to read. This animation from Kenji Satake at the Active Fault Research Center at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology shows how the tsunami waves propagated across the Indian Ocean basin in the first 180 minutes after the quake.

Perhaps this could happen here in San Francisco. Certainly if it did many who live in the Sunset District would be screwed. I would think that a wave forty feet high could reach into 44th Avenue–that’s about four to five blocks from the beach. I have a feeling that even with a warning system of sirens and speakers that many would perish. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen anywhere again.

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