Coral reefs reduce tsunami impact in model simulations

Catherine M. Kunkel, Robert W. Hallberg, Michael Oppenheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Significant buffering of the impact of tsunamis by coral reefs is suggested by limited observations and some anecdotal reports, particularly following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Here we simulate tsunami run-up on idealized topographies in one and two dimensions using a nonlinear shallow water model and show that a sufficiently wide barrier reef within a meter or two of the surface reduces run-up on land on the order of 50%. We studied topographies representative of volcanic islands (islands with no continental shelf) but our conclusions may pertain to other topographies. Effectiveness depends on the amplitude and wavelength of the incident tsunami, as well as the geometry and health of the reef and the offshore distance of the reef. Reducing the threat to reefs from anthropogenic nutrients, sedimentation, fishing practices, channel-building, and global wanning would help to protect some islands against tsunamis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL23612
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 16 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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