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Up until the late 1980s geology contributed very little to the study of tsunamis because most were generated by earthquakes which were mainly the domain of seismologists. In 1987–88 however, sediments deposited as tsunamis flooded land were discovered. Subsequently they began to be widely used to identify prehistorical tsunami events, providing a longer-term record than previously available from historical accounts. The sediments offered an opportunity to better define tsunami frequency that could underpin improved risk assessment. When over 2200 people died from a catastrophic tsunami in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1998, and a submarine landslide was controversially proven to be the mechanism, marine geologists provided the leadership that led to the identification of this previously unrecognized danger. The catastrophic tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 confirmed the critical importance of sedimentological research in understanding tsunamis. In 2011, the Japan earthquake and tsunami further confirmed the importance of both sediments in tsunami hazard mitigation and the dangers from seabed sediment failures in tsunami generation. Here we recount the history of geological involvement in tsunami science and its importance in advancing understanding of the extent, magnitude and nature of the hazard from tsunamis.

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