New maps show 2011 tsunami heights in Hawaii

Measurements shown alongside previous 20th century events

 UPDATED 12:26 AM HST Jul 20, 2013
HONOLULU -

The 2011 tsunami from Japan was bigger in Hawaii than people thought.

Recently released run-up maps show how much the water rose here. It was more than double what most experts thought would happen.

We now know that the height of that infamous wave in Kona was 10 feet.

"We train people how to accurately measure the height of a tsunami based on the run-up debris they find on land," said Daniel Walker, a retired senior seismologist.

Over the past two years, he compiled those measurements and put them on maps, alongside numbers from previous Pacific-wide tsunamis.

The highest run-up in 2011 was 17 feet in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, Mokuleia on Oahu and Moloaa Bay on Kauai. The warning center predicted a maximum wave of 6 to 7 feet. The maps also show large discrepancies between locations and previous tsunamis.

Walker said they exist because there are many variables, including elevation under the sea floor, along with the direction and speed of the fault's movement. He said that's why the 1946 tsunami from the Aleutian Islands was much higher than 2011, even though the earthquake was much smaller.

When asked about tsunami height predictions, Walker said, "It's not specific enough and the idea just of coming up with a simple number without getting into the complexities involved in that and the inaccuracies or the bad assumptions that people can make based on that number, I think that, that can be dangerous."

Do you want to print this page now?