The FASTER Approach: A New Tool for Calculating Real-Time Tsunami Flood Hazards
Monday, 15 December 2014: 8:45 AM
In the aftermath of the 2010 Chile and 2011 Japan tsunamis that struck the California coastline, emergency managers requested that the state tsunami program provide more detailed information about the flood potential of distant-source tsunamis well ahead of their arrival time. The main issue is that existing tsunami evacuation plans call for evacuation of the predetermined “worst-case” tsunami evacuation zone (typically at a 30- to 50-foot elevation) during any “Warning” level event; the alternative is to not call an evacuation at all. A solution to provide more detailed information for secondary evacuation zones has been the development of tsunami evacuation “playbooks” to plan for tsunami scenarios of various sizes and source locations. To determine a recommended level of evacuation during a distant-source tsunami, an analytical tool has been developed called the “FASTER” approach, an acronym for factors that influence the tsunami flood hazard for a community: Forecast Amplitude, Storm, Tides, Error in forecast, and the Run-up potential. Within the first couple hours after a tsunami is generated, the National Tsunami Warning Center provides tsunami forecast amplitudes and arrival times for approximately 60 coastal locations in California. At the same time, the regional NOAA Weather Forecast Offices in the state calculate the forecasted coastal storm and tidal conditions that will influence tsunami flooding. Providing added conservatism in calculating tsunami flood potential, we include an error factor of 30% for the forecast amplitude, which is based on observed forecast errors during recent events, and a site specific run-up factor which is calculated from the existing state tsunami modeling database. The factors are added together into a cumulative FASTER flood potential value for the first five hours of tsunami activity and used to select the appropriate tsunami phase evacuation “playbook” which is provided to each coastal community shortly after the forecast is provided.