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Science of Tsunami Hazards


Deadly western North Atlantic Ocean tsunami events in the last centuries have occurred along the east coast of Canada, the United States, most Caribbean islands, and the North Atlantic Coast of South America. The catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 reminded natural hazards managers that tsunami risk is endemic to all oceans. Total Risk is defined as hazard (frequency of tsunami events) times measures of elements at risk (human exposure) times measures of vulnerability (preparedness) in a given epoch (Nott, 2006). While the tsunami hazard in the Caribbean (averaging 19 ± 22 years between deadly events) is lower than Pacific coastal areas, the total risk to life and property is at least as high as the USA West Coast, Hawaii, or Alaska, because of the higher Caribbean population density and beach tourism so attractive to more than 35 million visitors a year. Viewed in this light, the allocation of resources by governments, industry, and insurers needs to be adjusted for the better protection of life, for coastal engineering, and for infrastructure.

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