New tsunami hazard maps highlight threat facing seven California counties — even Napa is threatened
Three years after a massive earthquake destroyed the Fukushima nuclear plant, scientists have produced for the first time a new comprehensive map of tsunami hazards that includes all parts of California — and even Napa.
The map, produced by University of California San Diego researcher William F. Howeth, includes more than 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of coastline.
It’s a massive, two-dimensional map that shows where tsunamis are potentially capable of hitting the state and where they might actually do so.
The tsunami maps are available for free online and in a book published by the U.S. Geological Survey. They were created with a mathematical technique called cartographic tsunami analysis, or CTA, which builds on information from past tsunamis to help scientists assess the risks.
The maps have been used for decades to predict tsunami paths before they strike coastal areas, with high levels of accuracy. There are now over 16 million miles of coastline in the U.S., and a growing body of research has been able to incorporate earthquake information with tsunami models to refine them.
The new maps are considered more accurate because they’ve been based on the best science from previous disasters. The new map adds new information about tsunamis that were generated in the wake of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake that devastated Sendai nuclear power plant, including a 2011 tsunami in Haiti that killed more than 250,000 people.
“There are many different ways to come up with a new model, but one has to have a scientific foundation,” said Howeth, a professor emeritus of geophysics and oceanography at U.C. San Diego who’s written over 150 scientific papers on geological tsunamis.
The new hazard maps use the earthquake’s epicenter location to pinpoint where a tsunami might hit. This location is also used to plot tsunami tracks, which are more accurate than predictions based on the center of a tsunami wave.
After the earthquakes and tsunamis from Japan, Howeth, and researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and other institutions, created tsunami models. They’ve now been used to help U.S. government agencies identify which coastal