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Tsunami and Risk: Simulation Shows Mediterranean Impact

Aug 27, 2015 03:03 PM EDT
Though more rare, tsunamis occur in the Mediterranean about once a century.
Researchers simulated the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes have on the Eastern Mediterranean. Their model shows how tsunami waves could hit and flood coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece.
(Photo : Samaras et al., Ocean Science, 2015)

A model simulating the impacts that a tsunami generated by an earthquake would have on the Eastern Mediterranean was recently developed by European researchers, and published in Ocean Science.

The model specifically showed how large waves could hit coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. While tsunamis aren't as frequent there as in the Pacific or Indian oceans, they froth up in the Mediterranean once a century or so, as a result of an earthquake caused by the African plate sliding under the Eurasian plate. According to a news release, only about 10% of all tsunamis worldwide happen in the Mediterranean.

"The main gap in relevant knowledge in tsunami modeling is what happens when tsunami waves approach the near shore and run inland," Achilleas Samaras, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of Bologna in Italy, said in the release. "We wanted to find out how coastal areas would be affected by tsunamis in a region that is not only the most active in the Mediterranean in terms of seismicity and tectonic movements, but has also experienced numerous tsunami events in the past."

Using information about the seafloor depth, shoreline and topography, the researchers were able to develop this computer model.

"We simulate tsunami generation by introducing earthquake-generated displacements at either the sea bed or the surface," Samaras explained in the release. "The model then simulates how these disturbances -- the tsunami waves -- propagate and are transformed as they reach the nearshore and inundate coastal areas."

Considering that some 130 million people live along the Mediterranean's coastline, a tsunami would pose a higher risk and wouldn't have far to go before hitting a coast.  So, these findings provide valuable insights on the amount of flooding that could occur.

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