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Australia a Boiling Point for Tsunamis, East Coast Most At Risk – Study

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | May 2, 2014 4:31 PM EST

Of all the continents in the world, it is Australia that had experienced more than its fair share of tsunamis, with most largely unreported, a new study has revealed.

According to a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales, Australia has experienced 145 tsunamis which if to be reviewed in historical times, most occurred on the continent's east coast.

"Most tsunami research emphasises the west coast but we really should do more research relevant to the east coast because 85 per cent of tsunamis in the historic period have been in the Pacific Ocean," James Goff, co-author of an updated database of tsunamis published in the journal Progress in Physical Geography, said.

 

The database listed a tsunami that occurred in 2006 which reached 8 metres (26 feet) above sea level on land, as well as ancient tsunami triggered by an asteroid impact.

"Our research has led to an almost three-fold increase in the number of events identified -- up from 55 in 2007," Goff said in a statement.

New South Wales alone experienced 57 tsunamis, the highest in the database. Tasmania seconded with 40, Queensland with 26 and Western Australia with 23.

Moreover, since 1883, there have been only 11 possible tsunami-related deaths that occurred in Australia. "This is remarkable, because our tsunami-prone neighbor, New Zealand, has only one recorded death," Goff said.

Much however still needs to be done to complete the database, Goff said. "Much more work needs to be done, especially to identify prehistoric events and those on the east coast," he said.

"Our goal is to better understand the tsunami hazard to Australia and the region. The geographical spread of events and deaths suggests the east coast faces the most significant risk."

Based on the records of Bureau of Meteorology, there have been over fifty recorded incidents of tsunamis affecting the Australian coastline since European settlement. Most of these tsunamis resulted in dangerous rips and currents rather than land inundation. The largest tsunami impacts have been recorded along the northwest coast of Western Australia:

  • In 1977 a tsunami travelled inland to a point six metres above sea level at Cape Leveque, WA.
  • In 1994 a tsunami travelled 300 metres inland in the Onslow-Exmouth region of WA.
  • In 2006 a tsunami affected parts of the WA coast, particularly at Steep Point where a tsunami travelled 200 metres inland.

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