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History of Australia's Tsunamis Revised in New Study

May 01, 2014 05:15 PM EDT
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Australia has a long and deadly history of being pummeled by tsunamis that has gone largely underreported in scientific literature, according to a new study.

A team of researchers from the University of New South Wales have revised Australia's tsunami database, detailing 145 modern and prehistoric events, including a 2006 tsunami that reached nearly 8 meters (26 feet) above sea level on land, and an ancient tsunami that resulted from an asteroid impact.

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

Goff said New South Wales alone had 57 tsunamis, the highest number the database, followed by Tasmania with 40, Queensland with 26 and Western Australia with 23.

To update nation's tsunami data base, Goff and his collaborator Catherine Chagué-Goff scoured scientific papers, newspaper reports, historical records and other tsunami databases.

"Historical documents indicate that up to 11 possible tsunami-related deaths have occurred in Australia since 1883.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

Notable tsunamis that have occurred in Australia as a result of prehistoric events, including a cosmic impacts and large earthquakes. An asteroid impact 2.5 million years ago and large earthquakes about 2900 years ago and in the mid-15th century were cited as the origin of three notable tsunamis in Australia's past.

However, Goff said, the database remains incomplete.

"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."

The research is published in the journal Progress in Physical Geography.

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