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Published on Apr 10, 2008
After the devastation of the Indian Ocean Tsunami on December 26, 2004, much attention has been given to tsunami research. The National Center for Tsunami Research, which is part of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, spearheaded the research efforts in the United States. A tsunami is a series of waves generated when a body of water, such as the ocean, is rapidly displaced on a massive scale. This is most likely to happen where the tectonic plates meet and create trenches. An earthquake in these regions can cause one plate to subduct under another and displace huge amounts of water. One location that has garnered much attention from scientists is the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest location in the Atlantic Ocean.
This visualization shows the possible impact an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude in the Puerto Rico trench would have on the United States East Coast. The propagation model used was created by NOAA's National Center for Tsunami Research. The bathymetry of the ocean floor can focus wave energy and steer waves. The location of the earthquake in this simulation was chosen to show the widespread impact that a tsunami can have on the entire East Coast of the United States. In particular, the location was determined based on a sensitivity study for inundation in Virginia. The yellow shading represents the crest of the wave, which is over 10cm above sea level and the red shading represents the trough of the wave, which over 10cm below sea level. The purple shading shows subsequent peaks 0 - 10cm high and the green shading equates to subsequent troughs 0 - 10cm.