Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 25 Issue 02

View Issue TOC
Volume 25, No. 2
Pages 208 - 218


Tsunamis: Are We Underestimating the Risk?

By Eddie Bernard 
Jump to
Citation References Copyright & Usage
First Paragraph

The horrific December 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed over 230,000 people and displaced 1.7 million across 14 countries, stimulated governments of the world into addressing tsunami hazards. Many Indian Ocean nations did not even recognize the word “tsunami,” and none had tsunami preparedness programs in place. Ignorance of the natural signs of a tsunami’s presence led to inappropriate actions and decisions by nations, population centers, and tourist destinations. The world’s response to this terrible natural disaster was an unprecedented $13.5 billion in international aid, including $5.5 billion from the general public in developed nations. The 2004 tsunami, one of the top 10 deadliest natural disasters the world has recorded, will probably be best remembered for the global outpouring of help to the innocent victims of this tragedy.


Bernard, E. 2012. Thirteenth Annual Roger Revelle Commemorative Lecture— Tsunamis: Are we underestimating the risk? Oceanography 25(2):208–218, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2012.60.


Asahi Shimbun. 2011. Tsunami drills paid off for hundreds of children. March 23. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/life_and_death/AJ201103233378.

Bernard, E.N., C. Meinig, V.V. Titov, K. O’Neil, R. Lawson, K. Jarrott, R. Bailey, F. Nelson, S. Tinti, C. von Hillebrandt, and P. Koltermann. 2010. Tsunami resilient communities. In Proceedings of the Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society, vol. 1. Venice, Italy, September 21–25, 2009, J. Hall, D.E. Harrison, and D. Stammer, eds, ESA Publication WPP-306, 4 pp, https://doi.org/10.5270/OceanObs09.pp.04.

Bernard, E.N., and A.R. Robinson. 2009. Introduction: Emergent findings and new directions in tsunami science. Pp. 1–22 in The Sea, vol. 15, Tsunamis. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and London, England.

Bernard, E.N., L. Dengler, and S. Yim. 2007. National Tsunami Research Plan: Report of a Workshop Sponsored by NSF/NOAA. NOAA Technical Memo OAR PMEL-133, 135 pp.

Bernard, E.N., ed. 2005. Developing Tsunami-Resilient Communities: The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program. Reprinted from Natural Hazards 35:1, Springer, The Netherlands, 184 pp.

Cosgrave, J. 2007. Synthesis Report: Expanded Summary. Joint Evaluation of the International Response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. London: Tsunami Evaluation Coalition.

Dunbar, P.K., and C.S. Weaver. 2008. US States and Territories National Tsunami Hazard Assessment: Historical Record and Sources for Waves. National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, and US Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia.

Elleman, B.A. 2007. Waves of Hope: The U.S. Navy’s Response to the Tsunami in Northern Indonesia. Naval War College Newport Papers 28, 134 pp.

EERI. 2011. Learning from Earthquakes: The Japan Tohoku Tsunami of March 11, 2011. Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Special Earthquake Report, 15 pp. Available online at: http://www.eqclearinghouse.org/2011-03-11-sendai/files/2011/11/Japan-eq-report-tsunami2.pdf (accessed May 9, 2012).

IOC/UNESCO. 2011. Casualties for the Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. Bulletins 1–29. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Available online at: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/hazard/tsunami/pdf (accessed May 9, 2012).

Iwan, W.D., ed. 2006. The Great Sumatra Earthquakes and Indian Ocean Tsunamis of 26 December 2004 and 28 March 2005 Reconnaissance Report. Earthquake Spectra 22:Special Issue III, 900 pp.

Japan Times. 2011. Tsunami hit more than 100 designated evacuation sites. April 14. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20110414a4.html (accessed May 9, 2012)

NOAA. 2010. Chile Tsunami Forecast Assessment. February 27–28, 2010, 75 pp.

NRC. 2011. Tsunami Warning and Preparedness: An Assessment of the US Tsunami Program and the Nation’s Preparedness Efforts. National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 284 pp.

OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy). 2005. Tsunami Risk Reduction for the United States: The United States Framework for Action. National Science and Technology Council, A Joint Report of the Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction and the United States Group on Earth Observations, 25 pp.

Port and Airport Research Institute. 2011. Executive Summary of Urgent Field Survey of Earthquake and Tsunami Disasters in 2011 Off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku Earthquake. 7 pp. http://www.pari.go.jp/en/files/items/3496/File/20110325.pdf (accessed May 9, 2012).

Samant, L.D., L.T. Tobin, and B. Tucker. 2007. Preparing Your Community for Tsunamis: A Guidebook for Local Advocates. GeoHazards International, 54 pp.

SEEDS Asia. 2011. The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake: In Depth Damage Report by Affected Cities and Children. GLIDE: EQ-2011-000028-JPN, 13 pp. Available online at: http://www.seedsasia.org/eng/Rep2.pdf (accessed May 9, 2012).

Synolakis, C.E., E.N. Bernard, V.V. Titov, U. Kânoğlu, and F.I. González. 2008. Validation and verification of tsunami numerical models. Pure and Applied Geophysics 165:2,197–2,228, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00024-004-0427-y.

Tang, L., V.V. Titov, Y. Wei, H.O. Mofjeld, M. Spillane, D. Arcas, E.N. Bernard, C. Chamberlin, E. Gica, and J. Newman. 2008. Tsunami forecast analysis for the May 2006 Tonga tsunami. Journal of Geophysical Research 113, C12015, https://doi.org/10.1029/2008JC004922.

Titov, V.V. 2009. Tsunami forecasting. Pp. 371–400 in The Sea, vol. 15, Tsunamis. E.N. Bernard and A.R. Robinson, eds, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and London, England.

Titov, V.V., A.B. Rabinovich, H.O. Mofjeld, R.E. Thomson, and F.I. González. 2005. The global reach of the 26 December 2004 Sumatra tsunami. Science 309:2,045–2,048, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1114576.

Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami Joint Survey Group. 2011. Nationwide field survey of the 2011 off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku earthquake tsunami. Journal of Japan Society of Civil Engineers Sr. B2 (Coastal Engineering) 67(1):63–66.

Voice of America. 2011. Japan Quake is World’s Costliest Natural Disaster. March 23, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/asia/east-pacific/Japan-Quake-Is-Worlds-Costliest-Natural-Disaster-118504664.html

Wilson, R., L. Dengler, J. Borrero, C. Synolakis, B. Jaffe, A. Berberopoulou, L. Ewing, M. Legg, A. Ritchie, P. Lynett, and others. 2011. The effect of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami on the California coastline. Seismological Research Letters 82(3):459–460.

Copyright & Usage

This is an open access article made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format as long as users cite the materials appropriately, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate the changes that were made to the original content. Images, animations, videos, or other third-party material used in articles are included in the Creative Commons license unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If the material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission directly from the license holder to reproduce the material.