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Globally Scattered 2011 Tohoku Tsunami Waves From a Seafloor Sensor Array in the Northeast Pacific Ocean

Kohler, Monica D. and Bowden, Daniel C. and Ampuero, Jean-Paul and Shi, Jian (2020) Globally Scattered 2011 Tohoku Tsunami Waves From a Seafloor Sensor Array in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research. Solid Earth, 125 (11). Art. No. e2020JB020221. ISSN 2169-9313. doi:10.1029/2020jb020221.

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Modeling of tsunami wave propagation for forecasting focuses on the arrival time and amplitude of the earliest tsunami waves reaching coastlines. The complex later tsunami wavefield, in which scattering is predominant, poses additional hazards due to possible constructive interference of coherent packets of wave energy. However, almost no data sets exist to characterize the geographical sources and temporal evolution of the scattered waves. Here we show how recordings of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami by an array of pressure gauge sensors in the northeastern Pacific Ocean reveal coherent waves that are produced by scattering from distant coastlines including South America and Antarctica, as well as multiple seafloor fracture zones, ridges, and island chains. Multiple signal classification analysis and backward propagation ray tracing provide tight constraints on the origin of each scattered phase and resolve simultaneous wave arrivals from different scatterers. Incoming waves from constant back azimuths occur over time durations of several hours, revealing the time persistence of specific geographical scatterers. The results can advance numerical predictions of tsunami wave impact because they provide direct evidence for the necessity of incorporating both local and distant bathymetry over a range of length scales and for long time durations, to account for the azimuthal dependence of scatterer strength.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ItemIRIS Data Management Center ItemSeismiQuery ItemBREQ_FAST software tool
https://docs.obspy.orgRelated ItemObsPy software tools ItemNOAA National Centers for Environmental Information
Kohler, Monica D.0000-0002-4703-190X
Bowden, Daniel C.0000-0003-3332-5146
Ampuero, Jean-Paul0000-0002-4827-7987
Shi, Jian0000-0002-1969-7579
Additional Information:© 2020 American Geophysical Union. Issue Online: 13 November 2020; Version of Record online: 13 November 2020; Accepted manuscript online: 30 October 2020; Manuscript accepted: 25 October 2020; Manuscript revised: 20 October 2020; Manuscript received: 19 May 2020. This manuscript greatly benefitted from thoughtful reviews provided by Frank González and an anonymous reviewer. The OBS deployment was made possible with instruments and logistical support of the Ocean Bottom Seismic Instrumentation Pool at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The ALBACORE OBS deployment and recovery cruises were made possible with the equipment and logistical support of the University‐National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) vessel fleet and staff support at Scripps. Support for this work was provided by the NSF Hazard‐SEES program Grant 1331600. J.P.A. was supported by the French government, through the UCAJEDI Investments in the Future project managed by the National Research Agency (ANR) with the reference number ANR‐15‐IDEX‐01. IRIS Data Services are funded through the Seismological Facilities for the Advancement of Geoscience and EarthScope (SAGE) by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement EAR‐1261681. Data Availability Statement: The OBS waveform data from the ALBACORE array are publicly available from the IRIS Data Management Center ( Specifically, the SeismiQuery web‐based tool ( shows ALBACORE data availability and how to access the continuous, time series data by choosing network name “2D” for years 2010 and 2011. Requests for the waveforms can be made using the BREQ_FAST software tool either by email or by web request (‐request/); this link is also provided by SeismiQuery. The DPG waveforms are indicated by channels “LDH” and “LXH.” Alternatively, the data can be accessed from IRIS using ObsPy software tools for seismology ( The topography and bathymetry model used in all figures and computations is ETOPO1 provided by the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (
Group:Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (ANR)ANR‐15‐IDEX‐01
Subject Keywords:tsunami; beamforming; backprojection; scattering; 2011 Tohoku earthquake; pressure gauge array
Issue or Number:11
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201102-072020996
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Kohler, M. D., Bowden, D. C., Ampuero, J.‐P., & Shi, J. (2020). Globally scattered 2011 Tohoku tsunami waves from a seafloor sensor array in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 125, e2020JB020221.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106372
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:04 Nov 2020 18:03
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:53

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