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Tsunami Inundation Maps for Insurance Underwriting

August 6, 2012
Tsunami Maps

Tsunami inundation maps have become a critical tool to help plan evacuation routes, hazard mitigation, and pinpoint the locations of structures and populations most likely to be affected in the event of a tsunami. Have you ever wondered how these locations are determined? There are some common sense answers: distance from fault lines, land at or below sea level, or unprotected coast lines. But the true answer is much more complex than that.

Intricate computer models are used to create these maps based on bathymetry (the measure of depths of bodies of water), topography, seismological studies, empirical evidence, and more. Standard tsunami inundation mapping uses the MOST (Method of Splitting Tsunami) model, a set of numerical simulation codes. The MOST model addresses the three stages of tsunami development: generation by an earthquake, transoceanic propagation, and inundation of dry land. This information can be used to develop faster, more reliable data in the event of an offshore earthquake.

Insurers can use the data provided by tsunami inundation maps to assess the risk of an exact location to help them to provide the right coverage to the right customers. In the event of an offshore earthquake, the maps also provide valuable information for insurers to assess the likely locations and severity of inundation so that they can begin organizing and allocating resources to the areas and customers who will need them, potentially hours before a tsunami even reaches land.

Though current tsunami inundation maps are still imperfect and cannot account for every scenario, the data they provide is proving to be a valuable tool to those in the insurance industry. Particularly for those of us in the Northwest, this is becoming an increasingly critical issue.

To find out about how WSRB’s PropertyEDGE™ software is using tsunami inundation mapping, call or email Tracy Skinner, 206.273.7146.


Leave us a comment below and let us know if you’re using tsunami inundation mapping for your risks.


Article by: April LaRita Green

Sources: NOAA Center for Tsunami Research; IMPLEMENTATION AND TESTING OF THE METHOD OF SPLITTING TSUNAMI (MOST) MODEL , NOAA Technical Memorandum ERL PMEL-112, by V.V. Titov and F.I. Gonzalez

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