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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
NOAA Center for Tsunami Research NOAA

Emergency managers and other officials are in urgent need of operational tools that will provide accurate tsunami forecast as guidance for rapid, critical decisions in which lives and property are at stake. The more timely and precise the warnings are, the more effective actions can local emergency managers take and the more lives and property can be saved.

Recent advances in tsunami measurement and numerical modeling technology are being integrated to create an effective tsunami forecasting system. Neither technology can do the job alone.

Observational networks will never be dense because the ocean is vast. Establishing and maintaining monitoring stations is costly and difficult, especially in deep water. Numerical model accuracy is inherently limited by errors in bathymetry and topography and uncertainties in the generating mechanism.

Combined, measurement and modeling techniques can provide reliable tsunami forecasts. To forecast inundation from early tsunami waves, seismic parameter estimates and tsunami measurements are used to sort through a pre-computed generation/propagation forecast database and select an appropriate (linear) combination of scenarios that most closely matches the observational data. This produces estimates of tsunami characteristics in deep water which can then be used as initial conditions for a site-specific (non-linear) inundation algorithm. A statistical methodology has been developed to forecast the maximum height of later tsunami waves that can threaten rescue and recovery operations. The results are made available through a user-friendly interface to aid hazard assessment and decision making by emergency managers. The MOST model performed computations of generation/propagation scenarios for the forecast database. The nonlinear high-resolution model will provide the inundation forecasts. This methodology is the foundation of the next generation forecast tools for tsunami warning and mitigation that are being developed in close collaboration with Tsunami Warning Centers and academia. These new tools will provide site- and event-specific forecast of tsunami amplitudes to assist emergency managers during tsunami warning and mitigation procedures.

The SIFT (Short-term Inundation Forecasting for Tsunamis) system is is under development for operational use in NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers. A SIFT forecast is the numerical estimate of amplitude, travel time, and additional tsunami properties using an inundation model constrained by real-time tsunami observations for specific coastal locations. Forecast products include estimates of tsunami amplitudes, flow velocities and arrival times for offshore, coastal and inundation areas. Stand-by Inundation Models (SIMs) are being developed to provide real-time tsunami predictions for selected coastal locations while the tsunami is propagating through the open ocean, before the waves have reached many coastlines. SIMs will be incorporated into the SIFT U.S. tsunami warning system for use at the Pacific and West Coast-Alaska Tsunami Warning Centers.


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