Seismic records of the 2004 Sumatra and other tsunamis: A quantitative study

Emile A. Okal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Following the recent reports by Yuan et al. (2005) of recordings of the 2004 Sumatra tsunami on the horizontal components of coastal seismometers in the Indian Ocean basin, we build a much enhanced dataset extending into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as far away as Bermuda and Hawaii, and also expanded to five additional events in the years 1995-2006. In order to interpret these records quantitatively, we propose that the instruments are responding to the combination of horizontal displacement, tilt and perturbation in gravity described by Gilbert (1980), and induced by the passage of the progressive tsunami wave over the ocean basin. In this crude approximation, we simply ignore the island or continent structure, and assume that the seismometer functions de facto as an ocean-bottom instrument. The records can then be interpreted in the framework of tsunami normal mode theory,and lead to acceptable estimates of the seismic moment of the parent earthquakes. We further demonstrate the feasibility of deconvolving the response of the ocean floor in order to reconstruct the time series of the tsunami wave height at the surface of the ocean, suggesting that island or coastal continental seismometers could complement the function of tsunameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-353
Number of pages29
JournalPure and Applied Geophysics
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • 2004 Sumatra earthquake
  • Seismic recording
  • Tsunami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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