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The Great Tsunami of 26 December 2004: A description based on tide-gauge data from the Indian subcontinent and surrounding areas


The Great Tsunami of 26 December 2004 is described using data from seven tide gauges in India and others from surrounding areas in the Indian Ocean. The tsunami struck the Indian east coast around 0330 UTC. The amplitude was 2 m above the tide at Chennai, Paradip, and Colombo. The east coast of India (and of Sri Lanka) was hit shortly after high tide; Tuticorin and Colombo, however, were hit shortly after low tide. The tsunami wave propagated northward along the Indian west coast. All these gauges are to the west of the earthquake zone and the detided sea levels show first a rise in sea level with the arrival of the tsunami, and then a sharp decrease. Spectral and wavelet analysis of the detided series show that the maximum amplitude was at a period of 35–45 minutes, with another maximum around 20 minutes. Along the Indian east coast, however, there is another broad peak between 1–2 hours within the first few hours after the first tsunami wave.


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Correspondence to D. Shankar.

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Nagarajan, B., Suresh, I., Sundar, D. et al. The Great Tsunami of 26 December 2004: A description based on tide-gauge data from the Indian subcontinent and surrounding areas. Earth Planet Sp 58, 211–215 (2006).

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Key words

  • Earthquake
  • tsunami
  • Sumatra
  • Andaman
  • tide gauge
  • wavelet