Open Access

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami: Tsunami source model from satellite altimetry

Earth, Planets and Space200658:BF03353378

Received: 8 July 2005

Accepted: 21 October 2005

Published: 17 February 2006


Satellite altimetry measurements of sea surface heights for the first-time captured the Indian Ocean tsunami generated from the December 2004 great Sumatra earthquake. Analysis of the sea surface height profile suggests that the tsunami source, or the seafloor deformation, of the great earthquake propagated to the north at an extremely slow speed of less than 1 km/sec on average for the entire 1300-km-long segment along the northern Sumatra-Nicobar-Andaman Trench. The extremely slow propagation speed produces a very long duration of tens minutes, longer than earthquake source duration estimated (480–500 sec) from short-period P-wave radiation. The satellite altimetry data requires a total seismic moment of 9.86 × 1022 Nm (Mw=9.3). This estimate is approximately 2.5 times larger than the value from long-period surface wave analysis but nearly the same as that from the ultra-long-period normal mode study. The maximum amount of slip (30 m) is identified in an offshore region closest to the northern most part of Sumatra where the largest tsunami run-up heights were observed.

Key words

2004 Sumatra earthquake tsunami source model satellite Indian Ocean