Effects of tsunami wave erosion on natural landscapes: Examples from the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami

Goro Komatsu, Kazuhisa Goto, Victor R. Baker, Takashi Oguchi, Yuichi S. Hayakawa, Hitoshi Saito, Jon D. Pelletier, Luke McGuire, Yasutaka Iijima

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Scopus citations


The 2011 Tohoku-oki Tsunami affected approximately 600 km of the northeastern coast of the Japanese Honshu Island, leaving traces of destruction on man-made buildings and depositing mud- to boulder-sized sediment. Our field observations at Aneyoshi along the Sanriku “ria” coast, where a maximum run-up height of 39.2 m was recorded, add to the limited number of studies of tsunami wave effects on natural landscapes. We found evidence for (1) tsunami wave erosion that exposed bare rock by stripping basal hillslopes of regolith and vegetation, including trees, (2) transport and deposition of coarse gravel, and (3) scour-hole generation around a large boulder and a large sea wall fragment. Computer simulations indicate that the highest first wave reaching the Aneyoshi coast may have been about 20 m high, that the combined duration of the first three waves was tens of minutes to 1 h, and that the maximum wave velocity on land reached over 10 m/s and probably exceeded 20 m/s in the lower, wide reach of the Aneyoshi valley. We hypothesize that hillsides along the Sanriku Coast have been stripped by erosion of numerous ancient tsunami events recurring at century or even decadal scales, since at least the mid-Holocene. The cumulative effects of tsunami erosion on the hillslopes and their long-term evolution are important potential topics for future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages11
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameAdvances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research
ISSN (Print)1878-9897
ISSN (Electronic)2213-6959


  • 2011 Tohoku Tsunami
  • Aneyoshi
  • Erosion
  • Hillslopes
  • Ria coast
  • Sanriku
  • Scour holes
  • Sediment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economic Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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