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Tsunami propagation and

An earthquake with a magnitude of 9.3 occurred on 26th December 2004 at 00:58 UTC with an epicentre off the
coast of Aceh (North Sumatra). The subsequent tsunami that ravaged the Indian Ocean took an enormous toll
on human life and caused immense damage along the coastal areas in India, Andaman Islands, Thailand,
Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Being closest to the epicentre, the coastal areas in the Northern part of Sumatra
were hit almost immediately by the largest waves with devastating effects. Most of the damage and death toll
was caused by the unexpected attack of the tsunami flood waves.
Deltares/Delft Hydraulics has carried out numerical
experiments to better understand the dynamics of
tsunami generation, propagation and flooding and to
support the restoration efforts of habitats (coral reef,
mangroves, wetlands and coastal (infra) structures).
This forms an essential part of the risk and safety
assessment for the disaster stricken area and the
development of future flood hazard maps. The basis
of such a risk assessment is a modelling framework
that is relatively accurate, robust and computationally

started; Envisat recorded the tsunami at 3 hours 15

minutes and the US Navy GEOSAT follow-on satellite
(GFO) recorded the wave more than 7 hours after it
Comparison between modelled water surface elevation
and satellite observations shows good agreement
between the two.

Set-up of an accurate Delft3D model

To compute the propagation and flooding of the
tsunami a Delft3D model has been set-up for Aceh
Sumatra. The initial water surface displacement
was estimated from reverse modelling. The results of
the computation were compared to relative sea level
heights measured by the four radar altimeter satellite
that recorded the running tsunami wave in the Indian
Ocean on December the 26th 2004.
This was done with data provided by the Aerospace
Engineering Department from the Technical University
of Delft, Mr E.J.O. Schrama.
Comparison of simulation results with satellite
altimeter data
Four radar altimeters observed sea level height profiles
over the Indian Ocean during the first few hours after
the earthquake. TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 mapped
the Indian Ocean about 2 hours after the tsunami

View from space at 26th December, 2004, 02.00 UTC

Computed and observed tsunami wave heights along the TOPEX/

Poseidon and Envisat satellite tracks at: a. T+2:00 UTC (left) and b. at
T+3:15 UTC (right). Red line denotes the tracks of the satellite.

The computed spreading

of the tsunami energy.

Deltares - Tsunami propagation and flooding

Flooding in Aceh, Sumatra (Indonesia)

A high resolution nested model of Aceh was applied
to simulate the coastal flooding as a result of
the tsunami waves. Details of the bathymetry
on land were resolved using the 90 m resolution
Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the Shuttle Radar
Topographic Mission (SRTM). Comparisons of the
modelled results were made with survey data and
flooding pictures made from satellite.

Use of the tsunami models

It has been used for generation of (under the Sea
Defence consultants project funded by the Royal
Netherlands Embassy, together with the DHV Group
and Witteveen+Bos consultants) of:
Coastal flood risk maps;
Tsunami warning system; and
Hind cast of past tsunami events to determine

For the flooding simulations the flood scheme of

the Delft3D system has been applied. This scheme
combines the efficiency of staggered grids with
conservation properties to ensure accurate results for
rapidly varying flows.

Related studies and projects

Deltares/Delft Hydraulics has performed related studies
and projects in:
St. Petersburg, Russia: A flood warning and
assessment GIS;
Andhra Pradesh, India: A cyclone hazard mitigation
project; real time early warning modelling system;
Vietnam: Development and transfer of an operational
semi-automatic typhoon-induced storm surge
forecast system.
Willapa Bay, WA, USA (in conjunction with the USGS):
comparing the effects of tsunami and subsidence on
the long-term morphology of the bay; and

The figure below shows the computed flooded area in

the coastal region of Banda Aceh. The results match
the flooding pictures taken by satellite extremely well.
The simulated maximum tsunami wave heights at a
number of locations were compared with the survey
data as shown in the table below.

coastal vulnerability

Tsunami benchmark studies.

Comparison of observed and computed tsunami arrival times at

Boxing day. 2004.


Simulated flooded area in Banda Aceh; an overview (left) and a detail
view for Banda Aceh (right).

Deltares - Tsunami propagation and flooding

P.O. Box 177

2600 MH Delft, The Netherlands

For more information contact:

Deepak Vatvani or
Johan Boon