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Keywords searched: 1998 Interview with Dr. Hal Mofjeld

  1. What is a tsunami?
  2. What causes tsunamis?
  3. Have you ever been in a tsunami?
  4. How long have you been a research scientist for tsunamis?
  5. How do you think the new warning systems will help the people in Hawaii, California, Washington, and Alaska be better prepared for tsunamis?
  6. What was the reason for you to start doing research on tsunami patterns?
  7. What do you hope to accomplish with tsunami research and how long will it take?
  8. How far do you think you are away from the final goal of tsunami research?
  9. What is the average height of a tsunami?

  1. What is a tsunami?

    A tsunami is a wave in the ocean or in a lake that is created by a geologic event. They used to be called tidal waves or seismic sea waves.

    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

  2. What causes tsunamis?

    Tsunamis are most often caused by earthquakes and landslides. These push the water upward, sideways or downward to create the tsunami waves. Volcanic eruptions can also cause tsunamis. There is evidence than in the distant past, asteroids and comets striking the Earth have created enormous tsunamis.

    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

  3. Have you ever been in a tsunami?

    Many years ago, I was camped on a beach along the coast of Washington State. The 1964 Alaska Earthquake created a tsunami which struck the West Coast at night. If it had been high enough where I was and if the tide had been higher, I would have had real problems. However, nothing happened and I only heard about the tsunami a day or two later.

    My wife was once in Hawaii when a tsunami evacuation was called. After a number of hours, it was determined that the wave was too small to be dangerous; and people were allowed to go back to their hotels.

    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

  4. How long have you been a research scientist for tsunamis?

    I've been doing tsunami research for about ten years. Before then, I did teach classes at the University of Washington in which one of the topics was tsunamis

    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, interview in 1998, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

  5. How do you think the new warning systems will help the people in Hawaii, California, Washington, and Alaska be better prepared for tsunamis?

    The tsunami mapping project will give emergency managers a better idea of which evacuation routes to pick and the places where people can go to be safe from a tsunami. Signs are being put up along these routes to show the way to the evacuation sites. The new buoy systems will quickly give the tsunami warning centers better information about the tsunamis.

    These centers will then be able to send out more accurate warning information as to which areas may be in danger from a tsunami. Hopefully, this will decrease the number of false alarms. Tide gages will measure the heights of later waves in tsunamis. This information will be very useful for guiding rescue operations and for calling the all-clear.

    Many people assume that the tsunami is over after the first wave or two, but this is not true. Later waves, especially at high tide, can be very dangerous.

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    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

  6. What was the reason for you to start doing research on tsunami patterns?

    The tsunami mapping effort began because it was realized that only a few coastal communities had any information about how tsunamis might affect them. This work is being part of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, in which Federal agencies work with states to decrease the impacts of tsunamis. The program focuses on three areas: better maps, better warnings and education. There is a similar program for earthquakes.

    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, interview in 1998, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

  7. What do you hope to accomplish with tsunami research and how long will it take?

    This research is meant to fulfill the goals of the national program, aiming to reduce the loss of life and property due to tsunamis. The first set of maps has been produced and about half of the tsunami buoys are in place. Much of the work will be completed in two years. The maps that have been done so far are for the communities that are most at risk from tsunamis. Maps for other coastal areas will also be produced as time permits.

    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, interview in 1998, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

    References and more info: NOAA Tsunami Website

  8. How far do you think you are away from the final goal of tsunami research?

    Producing the tsunami maps will be an ongoing process. One thing that is missing right now is the estimate of how strong the water currents are during a tsunami. That is, the maps only tell us how high the water might get but not how fast it is moving. However, these currents do a lot of the damage. It will take some time to develop a reliable method for predicting the tsunami currents. Once the first array of buoys is in place, the next issue is how to get other countries to put in buoys of their own. Then we will have much better coverage of areas, like Russia and Japan, where tsunamis are formed that are dangerous to the United States. This may be years off. In the meantime, we will make use of island tide gages.

    See also:



    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, interview in 1998, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research

  9. What is the average height of a tsunami?

    Most tsunamis are very weak and have heights of only a few inches (or centimeters). However, once in a while there is tsunami that is really dangerous. Near the place where they are created, these larger tsunamis may have heights of many feet (meters). As they spread out or move into the deep ocean, their heights decrease to a foot or less. However their heights increase again as the tsunami waves reach shallow water near impact areas. Computer models for tsunamis along the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington State are showing that the expected heights for these larger tsunamis is around 30-70 feet.

    Authority: Dr. Hal Mofjeld, interview in 1998, NOAA Center for Tsunami Research