Alaska has the greatest earthquake and tsunami potential in the entire
United States. The communities of the south-coastal Alaska occupy one
of the most seismically active regions of the world, where the
Pacific Plate is subducting under the North American Plate.
This subduction zone, the
megathrust zone, creates high tsunami hazards for the adjacent
Historic tsunamis that were generated by earthquakes in the
Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone have resulted in widespread damage
and loss of life along the Alaska Pacific coast and other exposed
locations around the Pacific Ocean. Large seismic events occurring
in the vicinity of the Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Islands, and Gulf
of Alaska have a very high potential for generating both local and
To help mitigate the risk these earthquakes and tsunamis pose to Alaskan coastal communities, the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys participate in the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program by evaluating and mapping potential inundation of selected parts of Alaska coastlines using numerical modeling of tsunami wave dynamics. The communities for inundation modeling are selected in coordination with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management with consideration to location, infrastructure, availability of bathymetric and topographic data, and willingness for a community to incorporate the results in a comprehensive mitigation plan.
Tsunami damage in Seward, Alaska. Photo credit: U.S. Department of the Interior.