Tsunami modeling has shown that tsunami sources located along the Alaska Peninsula segment of the Aleutian-Alaska subduction zone have the greatest impacts on southern California shorelines by raising the highest tsunami waves for a given source seismic moment. The most probable sector for a Mw ~ 9 source within this subduction segment is between Kodiak Island and the Shumagin Islands in what we call the Semidi subduction sector; these bounds represent the southwestern limit of the 1964 Mw 9.2 Alaska earthquake rupture and the northeastern edge of the Shumagin sector that recent Global Positioning System (GPS) observations indicate is currently creeping. Geological and geophysical features in the Semidi sector that are thought to be relevant to the potential for large magnitude, long-rupture-runout interplate thrust earthquakes are remarkably similar to those in northeastern Japan, where the destructive Mw 9.1 tsunamigenic earthquake of 11 March 2011 occurred. In this report we propose and justify the selection of a tsunami source seaward of the Alaska Peninsula for use in the Tsunami Scenario that is part of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR) Project. This tsunami source should have the potential to raise damaging tsunami waves on the California coast, especially at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Accordingly, we have summarized and abstracted slip distribution from the source literature on the 2011 event, the best characterized for any subduction earthquake, and applied this synoptic slip distribution to the similar megathrust geometry of the Semidi sector. The resulting slip model has an average slip of 18.6 m and a moment magnitude of Mw = 9.1. The 2011 Tohoku earthquake was not anticipated, despite Japan having the best seismic and geodetic networks in the world and the best historical record in the world over the past 1,500 years. What was lacking was adequate paleogeologic data on prehistoric earthquakes and tsunamis, a data gap that also presently applies to the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. Quantitative appraisal of potential tsunami sources in Alaska requires such investigations.
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USGS Numbered Series
Alaska earthquake source for the SAFRR tsunami scenario: Chapter B in The SAFRR (Science Application for Risk Reduction) Tsunami Scenario