Years of data support research and understanding of tsunami risk in New Zealand

Toka Tū Ake EQC has helped GNS Science combine hundreds of years of tsunami data and information into a public resource that will increase awareness of tsunami risk in New Zealand, provide evidence to inform better tsunami planning land use and encourage further research.

According to Sarah-Jayne McCurrach, Head of Risk Reduction and Resilience at Toka Tū Ake, over the past decade we have significantly expanded our tsunami monitoring and detection capabilities, and the maintenance of this data, to both historical and modern, is equally important.

“Understanding tsunami information and data from monitoring equipment, as well as historical newspaper articles, maritime records, personal journal entries and Maori oral recordings, complements our modern hazard assessment and modeling and New Zealand tsunami hazard,” McCurrach said.

“Although it is only a small piece of the puzzle, the database will be a key tool for decision-making and will help guide the science and risk management sector in New Zealand. , including insurance, resource management, and emergency planning and preparedness.”

The New Zealand Tsunami Database contains over 900 records, dating from the early 1800s to the present day. It is hosted by GNS Science and will allow open access to the scientific community as well as the public.

The announcement of the new database coincides with the 75th anniversary of the second of two major historic earthquakes that occurred near Gisborne in 1947. Historical records show that these earthquakes were not widely felt, but generated two land-inundating tsunamis, known as “stealths”. tsunami’.

This information is helping scientists understand other places in New Zealand where this type of event could occur and, more importantly, sparking research that has led to further investment in New Zealand’s monitoring network and tsunami detection.

“Extensive research into these types of events has allowed us to better understand and model what might happen and where.”

“Although we may not have experienced large or devastating tsunamis like other countries have in recent years, this database shows that we have experienced very large tsunamis in the past. why it is important to know as much as possible about what we might face in New Zealand.

“Every event is different, which is why scientists place great importance on understanding the source characteristics of the tsunami. It is very exciting to see it come together after years of industry advocacy.

“The other interesting thing is that it’s closely aligned and linked to the NIWA paleo-tsunami database, which means there’s some verification of what we see in the ground, to what has been observed,” McCurrach said.

GNS Science Risk scientist Finn Scheele says most of the tsunami database entries are the result of many years of dedicated historical research by former GNS researcher Gaye Downes.

“We are delighted that this recent database update will continue this valuable resource by allowing us to add modern tsunami observations such as social media and different instrumental records,” he said.

The database is now online and over time the GNS also hopes to add a sea level/tsunami gauge and DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami) buoy data to create a single source of key observational data from historical and modern events.

McCurrach says New Zealanders must continue to understand their risk.

“Toka Tū Ake continues to invest in science to help us better understand the impact of the tsunami around New Zealand and assess the most effective risk management options to keep our whānau, our communities and our properties,” said McCurrach.

“It can be scary to think of a tsunami hitting our shores, but it’s important to be prepared. Remember, if you feel a long or strong earthquake, leave,” she says.

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