Normal mode energetics for far-field tsunamis generated by dislocations and landslides

Emile A. Okal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We apply the normal mode representation of tsunami waves, as introduced by WARD (1980) to the systematic study of the excitation of far-field tsunamis by both dislocation sources (represented by double-couples of moment Mo), and landslides (represented by single forces). Using asymptotic representations of the continuation of the tsunami eigenfunction into the solid Earth, we derive analytical expressions of the spectral amplitude generated by both systems. We show that the quadrupolar corrections defined by DAHLEN (1993) in the case of landslides can result in an increase of 1 to 2 orders of magnitude of the effective force. Even so, the spectrum of tsunami waves generated by landslides is found to be offset significantly to relatively high frequencies (10 mHz), where dispersion becomes important and eventually diminishes time-domain amplitudes. We proceed to calculate the total energy delivered into the tsunami modes by integrating the energy of multiplets for an average source geometry. In the case of dislocation sources, and taking into account the corner frequency of the source, we reproduce the scaling with M4/30 which was derived from purely static arguments by KAJIURA (1981). We compare the directivity patterns of far-field tsunami waves by dislocations and landslides, and conclude that the latter cannot give rise to pronounced lobes of directivity for physically acceptable values of the velocity of the slide. Directivity thus constitutes a robust discriminant of the nature of the source which, when applied to the 1946 Aleutian tsunami in the far-field, requires generation by a dislocative source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2189-2221
Number of pages33
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - Oct 2003


  • Directivity
  • Landslides
  • Normal modes
  • Tsumani theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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