Capricorn Coast beaches were closed when a tsunami warning was issued in 2007
Capricorn Coast beaches were closed when a tsunami warning was issued in 2007 CHRIS ISON

New report shows the chances of a tsunami hitting Yeppoon

NEW data released this week has revealed the northwest coast of Western Australia was more likely to experience a tsunami than any other region in the country, though experts tsunami generated from earthquakes around the Pacific Ocean could potentially be felt in the region around Yeppoon.

The 2018 update to the Probabilistic Tsunami Hazard Assessment (PTHA) models how frequently tsunamis of any given size occur along the Australian coast, and includes data for more than half a million potential earthquake-tsunami scenarios.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said more than 50 recorded incidents of tsunamis affecting the Australian coast since European settlement.

 

The map shows the maximum stage (i.e. peak tsunami water level) for an event with average return interval of 500 years.
The map shows the maximum stage (i.e. peak tsunami water level) for an event with average return interval of 500 years. Frazer Pearce

"An earthquake oriented in just the right way could generate a tsunami that could have major consequences for Australia," Senator Canavan said.

"Understanding the tsunami hazard and knowing what to do is critical. The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre ensures that all Australians have at least 90 minutes' warning time to take action."

Hydrodynamic modeller at Geoscience Australia, Dr Gareth Davies said small tsunamis had been experienced in the Central Queensland region in recent times.

"In 2007 a magnitude 8.1 earthquake off the Solomon Islands caused a tsunami with peak-to-trough height around 0.5m at Rosslyn Bay near Yeppoon," Dr Davies said.

"Tsunamis of this size generally don't lead to significant land inundation, but can cause unusual marine currents which are sometimes hazardous for swimmers, people using boats and other marine users.

"Historically I'm not aware of any events which led to significant inundation in this region but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

"But if such tsunamis do occur they are probably quite rare compared with the length of historical records."

Dr Davies said the earthquake source zones most likely to generate a tsunami affecting Yeppoon include the Kermadec-Tonga trench north of New Zealand, the New Hebrides trench near Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands trench extending from the Solomon Islands to New Britain and even along the west coast of South America.

"Small tsunamis are likely to be observed every few years," he said.

"In terms of more dangerous tsunamis, leading to land inundation, right now we cannot say how often these occur."

Senator Canavan said Geoscience Australia and other tsunami modellers would use the 2018 PTHA to develop local tsunami inundation models, which would help in disaster risk management and evacuation plans, as well as infrastructure planning and mitigation strategies.


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