Four Years After the Tohoku Earthquake, RMS Releases Global Tsunami Risk Study

Study shows significant tsunami risk in the Caribbean and Mediterranean

NEWARK, Calif.--()--RMS, the world’s leading catastrophe risk management firm, has released a global tsunami risk study that identifies more than 20 subduction zones worldwide capable of generating a giant earthquake and tsunami - similar in scale to the March 11, 2011, Tohoku, Japan event. The new study, which uses the newly released RMS Global Tsunami Scenario Catalog, reveals many coastal populations, industrial clusters, ports and vacation resorts at risk from this underestimated tsunami threat.

“Future mega-tsunamis should no longer be considered black swan events, as we now know where these events can occur. While these events have very low occurrence rates, communities and businesses on the coastlines at frontline risk of these events should assess the risk accordingly.”

To conduct the study, RMS examined all subduction zones worldwide capable of producing magnitude (M) 9.0 earthquakes, including those considered dormant or inactive.

“While the Cyprus Arc subduction zone and Puerto Rico Trench, among others, are dormant, RMS analysis reveals they are capable of generating tsunami waves similar in scale to those produced along the Japan Trench in 2011, and with it unprecedented devastation,” said Dr. Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS. “Future mega-tsunamis should no longer be considered black swan events, as we now know where these events can occur. While these events have very low occurrence rates, communities and businesses on the coastlines at frontline risk of these events should assess the risk accordingly.”

The RMS study illustrates that a M9.0 earthquake on the Cyprus Arc could trigger a tsunami across the eastern Mediterranean Sea, impacting up to 12 countries including Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey.

“Turkey would bear the brunt of impacts from a mega-tsunami generated on the Cyprus Arc. Coastal cities in Antalya, a popular tourist destination along the Turkish Riviera, and Mersin, a southern Turkish city with the largest seaport in the country, could experience tsunami wave heights up to nine meters,” said Muir-Wood.

The study also shows a tsunami generated on the Puerto Rico Trench could inundate popular tourist resorts in the Dominican Republic and in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands with waves up to nine meters. The same tsunami could also flood coastlines along western and northern Puerto Rico, including areas of San Juan.

Giant earthquakes and their accompanying mega-tsunamis that were generated north of Sumatra in 2004, off the coast of central Chile in 2010, and off the coast of north eastern Japan in 2011, have claimed an estimated 300,000 lives and cost more than $250 billion in economic loss. Rising coastal populations worldwide have led to a significantly increased risk from tsunami inundation.

“Many people are completely unaware they live in direct range of a potentially catastrophic tsunami,” said Muir-Wood. “As we saw four years ago with the Tohoku event, mega-tsunami events can devastate local communities and have far-reaching impacts on global supply chains.”

 
Some of the potential mega-tsunamis included in the RMS Global Tsunami Scenario Catalog

Subduction
Zone

 

Inundation
Area (km2)

  Number of countries impacted and examples of cities at frontline risk of the tsunami and their maximum inundation depth
Cyprus Arc  

< 1000

  12
  • Mersin (9m), Antalya (6m) in Turkey;
  • Lanarca (6m) and Limassol (6m) in Cyprus;
  • Tripoli (9m) in Lebanon;
  • Haifa (9m) and Ashdod (4.5m) in Israel.

Puerto Rico
Trench

  500   32
  • Dorado (>9m), Mayaguez, Arecibo and San Juan (>9m) in Puerto Rico;
  • Cabo Engano (9m) and Bávaro, (9m) in the Dominican Republic.
Manila Arc   500   9
  • Manila (4.5m), Olongapo (9m), Subic Port (>9m), and San Fernando (9m) in the Philippines;
  • Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong (1.5m);
  • Kaohsiung City (1.5m) and Kao Yuan (1.5m) in Taiwan.

Hikurangi
Trench

  200   6
  • Napier New Zealand (9m)
  • Gisborne, New Zealand (6m)
  • Lyall Bay, Wellington, New Zealand (4.5m)

Lesser
Antilles

  100   35
  • Saint Francois, Guadeloupe (9m)
  • Saint-Louis, Guadeloupe (>9m)
  • Fort-de-France, Martinique (6m)
   

Further information and images for all of the above tsunami scenarios are available by contacting PRteam@rms.com.

About RMS

RMS models and software help financial institutions and public agencies evaluate and manage catastrophe risks throughout the world, promoting resilient societies and a sustainable global economy.

Learn more at www.rms.com and follow us @RMS.

Contacts

RMS
Alexia Russell, +44 77 88 394 219
alexia.russell@rms.com
Cynthia Horiguchi, +1-510-320-9770
cynthia.horiguchi@rms.com