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Fieldwork

USGS Geologist Invited to Map Tsunami Impacts in the Maldives


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Collapsed building
Above: Collapsed building on the island of Gemendhoo, Maldives, one of the islands made uninhabitable by the December 26 tsunami. (Photograph from the Maldives National Disaster Management Centre.) [larger version]

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) coastal geologist Bruce Richmond was invited to the Republic of Maldives, a nation of low-lying atolls south-southwest of India, to help map the impacts of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004. An archipelago of 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls, the Maldives has an average elevation of just 1.5 m. Waves ranging from 1 to 3.7 m high were reported throughout the archipelago, with the waves sweeping completely across many of the islands.

Because of its low elevation, the tiny island nation has long urged larger, more powerful nations to take action against global warming, fearing that higher sea levels could make much of its territory disappear. December's tsunami demonstrated just how vulnerable the low-lying islands are, affecting all of them to some degree and making more than 10 percent of them uninhabitable. The Maldive government is seeking recommendations to help mitigate future tsunami impacts, and its Ministry of Environment and Construction asked the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for the technical assistance of a geologist. USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) contacted Richmond, who has extensive experience in mapping and assessing the coastal hazards of Pacific Ocean islands, and invited him to participate in field studies to provide expert information on the geologic development of atoll islands and the impact of tsunamis on low-lying islands.

Richmond spent Feburary 18 to March 1 in the Maldives, working closely with Maldivean scientists and personnel from the Ministry of Environment and Construction. The group measured tsunami water levels, runup elevations, inundation distances, and flow directions. They surveyed topographic profiles, measured erosion depths, recorded tsunami-sediment-deposit thicknesses and characteristics, and took georeferenced photographs of tsunami impacts. Still in the Maldives as of this writing, Richmond will provide briefings to government personnel before he leaves the island nation, and will later provide a written report of his findings and recommendations. Check future issues of Sound Waves for an account of his fieldwork.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Astonishing Wave Heights Among the Findings of an International Tsunami Survey Team on Sumatra
March 2005
USGS Scientists Study Sediment Deposited by 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
February 2005
Indian Ocean Earthquake Triggers Deadly Tsunami
Dec. 2004 / Jan. 2005
Could It Happen Here?
Dec. 2004 / Jan. 2005
Group Aims to Distinguish Tsunami Deposits from Large-Storm Deposits in the Geologic Record
October 2002

Related Web Sites
Maldives National Disaster Management Centre
Maldives National Disaster Management Centre
The December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: Initial Findings on Tsunami Sand Deposits, Damage, and Inundation in Sri Lanka
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Tsunami Generation from the 2004 M=9.0 Sumatra Earthquake
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Tsunamis and Earthquakes
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Preliminary Analysis of Sedimentary Deposits from the 1998 Papua New Guinea (PNG) Tsunami
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Preliminary Analysis of Sedimentary Deposits from the June 23, 2001 Peru Tsunami
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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