Sendai Tsunami Evacuation Simulations

Posted Friday, March 9 2012 by jonathan

Tonight Daily Planet, a show on Discovery Channel Canada, is running a retrospective on the March 11, 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan and exploring what we've learned in the year since. I was excited to talk to them and discuss the research I've done developing a casualty simulator capable of combining geophysical and hydrodynamic models of tsunamis, casualty models detailing how strong water has to be flowing to knock people down, and evacuation models describing how people move toward safety during disasters.

I've received a couple of questions on the disparity between the casualty counts in my Sendai simulations (15,000 to 25,000 casualties) and the actual estimates from last year's tsunami (less than 1,000). The brief explanation is that these simulations of Sendai are still in development and the models for when people begin evacuating and how they travel are evolving. One of the most exciting oopportunities in studying Sendai is that we can compare a real disaster where we have incredibly detailed before and after data against the simulations. My goal is to narrow the margin of error and understand how to more accurately model evacuation behavior.

I'll be posting updates with new animations and casualty estimates as we refine the evacuation models, so stay tuned.

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