Estimating Earthquake-Induced Tsunami Height Probabilities without Sampling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Given a distribution of earthquake-induced seafloor elevations, we present a method to compute the probability of the resulting tsunamis reaching a certain size on shore. Instead of sampling, the proposed method relies on optimization to compute the most likely fault slips that result in a seafloor deformation inducing a large tsunami wave. We model tsunamis induced by bathymetry change using the shallow water equations on an idealized slice through the sea. The earthquake slip model is based on a sum of multivariate log-normal distributions, and follows the Gutenberg-Richter law for seismic moment magnitudes ranging from 7 to 9. For a model problem inspired by the Tohoku-Oki 2011 earthquake and tsunami, we quantify annual probabilities of differently sized tsunami waves. Our method also identifies the most effective tsunami mechanisms. These mechanisms have smoothly varying fault slip patches that lead to an expansive but moderately large bathymetry change. The resulting tsunami waves are compressed as they approach shore and reach close-to-vertical leading wave edge close to shore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1587-1597
Number of pages11
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • PDE-constrained optimization
  • Tsunami hazard
  • adjoint equations
  • probability estimation
  • shallow water equations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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