NOAA Maps Shows Honshu Tsunami Wave Heights Around the Globe

How can you display wave height in a meaningful way, particularly when a tsunami strikes after a major earthquake?

NOAA researchers and staff took the maximum predicted wave heights from buoys positioned in the Pacific as the Honshu Tsunami spread across the Pacific on March 11, 2011. Using that data, they created the dramatic images and video below of the predicted wave heights and energy of the tsunami.

The black color on the left side of each image shows the tsunami at its highest.

Image of the Honshu Tsunami courtesy NOAA and SciAm.

An author at SciAm writes:

This graphic shows the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions of the maximum heights of tsunami waves caused by the March 11 earthquake near Sendai, Japan. The wave heights will decrease as the waves cross the deep Pacific Basin but rise again as they approach shorelines, although they won’t be as high as they were around Japan. The map shows waves of 30 to 70 centimeters (1.0 feet to 2.3 feet) are predicted to hit New Zealand, the South Pacific islands, Hawaii and the western coast of North America.


E. Skarda at Time Newsfeed writes:

Waves spawned by the earthquake that hit Japan on Friday were literally off the charts — reaching up to 12 feet in some locations, according to reports.

Near the earthquake epicenter, waves heights were were at their highest — this chart maxes out at 240 inches or approximately 8 feet, although the swells in Japan were said to be even higher — and tapered as they traveled across the Pacific and reached South America nearly 24 hours later.

This image shows another plot of the maximum wave amplitude.

Image of the Honshu Tsunami energy plot courtesy NOAA.

This video from the NOAA Tsunami Research Center shows the propagation of the tsunami from the earthquake epicenter off the coast of northeastern Japan to the rest of the Pacific.

What are your thoughts as you view these images based on the tsunami data?

[Via SXSW Interactive.]