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Costas Synolakis and USC Tsunami Research Center in the World's News

In the aftermath of the catastrophic events in Japan, the Astani Department professor is widely quoted

March 16, 2011 —

Part of the USC Viterbi School's Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and directed by Professor Costas Synolakis, the Tsunami Research Center carries on all aspects of tsunami research including inundation field surveys, numerical and analytical modeling, and hazard assessment, mitigation and planning. Click on the logo to learn more.




Recent public statements by TRC researchers:

March 30: Gauging the Tsunami Risk in Southern California. Grasping the extent of the tsunami risk for Southern California has been a work in progress, much of it done at USC's Tsunami Research Center. Reality is, the more that's learned, the more risk becomes apparent, according to Mark Legg and Aggeliki Barberopoulou of the USC TRC.
March 29: Japan's tsunami warning system worked well, experts said, providing people with a 20- to 30-minute warning, which may have saved 100,000 or more lives. The U.S. lacks a comprehensive warning system, critics said. Costas Synolakis, the director of USC's Tsunami Research Center, said the Los Angeles coast needs an instrument that provides real-time data on tsunamis. "It's inexcusable we don't have one," he said.
March 27: AP IMPACT: Japan utility used bad assumptions to conclude nuclear plant was safe from tsunami TEPCO “absolutely should have known better,” said Dr. Costas Synolakis, a leading American expert on tsunami modeling and an engineering professor at the University of Southern California. “Common sense,” he said, should have produced a larger predicted maximum water level at the plan
March 27: Japanese Rules for Nuclear Plants Relied on Old Science Costas Synolakis, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California called Japan’s underestimation of the tsunami risk a “cascade of stupid errors that led to the disaster” and said that relevant data was virtually impossible to overlook by anyone in the field.
March 22: Costas Synolakis, who directs the Tsunami Research Center at USC, said tsunamis triggered by faraway events occur once or more a decade here, and generally pose a relatively minor threat to human safety in Southern California—although they can wreak havoc in the ports by damaging docks and disrupting shipping.
March 20: Tsunamis caused by undersea landslides could reach as high as 40 feet, although they would be localized and quick to dissipate, said Costas Synolakis, director of the Tsunami Research Center at USC.  "This will be our best data set of response in California from a far-afield tsunami yet," said Jose Borrero
March 20: COSTAS SYNOLAKIS: "Japan is one of those most well-prepared countries on earth in terms of tsunami warning. They had a warning. I think what went wrong is that they had not anticipated the size of this event." He says there are two reasons for this. Japan has not had any event anywhere near as big as this one in the last one hundred fifty years. And scientists had not expected such a large earthquake happening off the coast of Japan.

March 18: The USC Tsunami Reseach Center said steps should be taken to help prepare Californians for a future disaster. “[Caltrans] had no information for people who wanted to know if it was safe to drive along highway 1,” said Leslie Ewing

March 18: The USC Tsunami Reseach Center praises, criticizes statewide response to tsunami. Low tides saved the day,” said researcher Jose Borrero, who explained that high tides could have magnified the effect of the ocean swell.

March 18:  Costas Synolakis: "Without exaggeration [analysis of videos of the Japanese tsunamis] can lead to a quantum leap in the way we calculate and estimate how fast the tsunami propagates on land"

March 18: The Tsunami Research Center ... this week deployed several tsunami scholars from Oregon to San Diego Harbor to collect data on the event. During a news conference Friday, the researchers said the information they collected will help people better understand tsunamis and their effects on California's coast.

March 17:  Friday's waves also will help researchers study tsunamis in San Diego County, where about 25,000 people live in areas at risk of flooding. Two scientists with the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California were in the county Tuesday assessing the effect of the waves.

March 16: "Tsunamis caused by underwater landslides off Southern California could reach as high as 40 feet, although they would be localized and quick to dissipate, said Costas Synolakis, director of the Tsunami Research Center at USC. ...USC researchers estimate that a tsunami created by an offshore quake could cost the region $7 billion to $40 billion from port closures alone.
March 16: Costas Synolakis, director of the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California, said the offshore earthquake zone close to either plant is not capable of producing the 8.9 magnitude quake that devastated Northeast Japan last week. Regions farther north, from the California line to British Columbia, are in much greater danger for that sort of event, he said.

March 14:  Japan builds for natural disasters and it has built its national character on taking disaster in stride, pulling together, and building over. This hour, On Point: The Japanese people and their indescribable challenge. Guests include Costas Synolakis, professor of geophysics and the Director of the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California.

March 14: "It looks like what happens if you hit a drum," Synolakis said. "You create waves with just one hit to it, but the drum keeps vibrating. What that means is it takes a couple waves to come in. Then you set up these back and forth waves inside the harbor that end up reinforcing each other. Crescent City took about 36 hours for the oscillation to die down."
March 14: A 7 minute interview of Costas Synolakis by Warren Olney on Reporter's Notebook: The questions: "We know we're in earthquake country, but what parts of Southern California are also vulnerable to tsunamis? Are warning systems in place?"
March 14: "Scientists at federal agencies are using a newly developed tool — a modeling system — called MOST (Method of Splitting Tsunami) to help predict how tsunamis will develop. The system ... has vastly improved predictions of a tsunamis' behavior and effects — wavelength and amplitude among them — and as a result, tsunami warnings have become far more detailed and accurate, according to Costas Synolakis, ... who, along with Vasily Titov, developed MOST.
March 13: (op-ed When Will We Learn? by Costas Synolakis)   "... a world-class warning system is only part of the tsunami story. What the world needs are tsunami-resilient communities that plan ahead not for any particular tsunami but for a medley of coastal hazards, storm floods, sea-level rises, and hurricanes...."

March 11: When the earthquake ruptures along a fault line, the surface around that fault is pushed up and then dropped back down. That movement displaces the entire water column above that chunk of the surface. "This is the most common way to generate a tsunami," said Aggeliki Barberopoulou of the University of Southern California's Tsunami Research Center, who is monitoring the current tsunami as it affects California.

March 11: Hawaii orders evacuations in Pacific tsunami threat. Can the tsunami in the Pacific affect Hawaii and the west coast? Jose Borrero, USC Tsunami Research Center explains on CNBC newsline
March 11: "This was the largest tsunami ever measured by US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tsunamographs in the open ocean, with maximum crest height of over 2 metres," says Costas Synolakis, director of the University of Southern California's Tsunami Research Center in Los Angeles.
March 11, 2011: “Tsunamis tend to be highly directional and spread out across the ocean in fingers of energy –- they’re called fingers of God,” said Costas Synolakis....