New evidence for a roughly 600-year-old tsunami impacting the Hawaiian Islands

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In a comprehensive survey of Hawaiian tsunami deposits, USGS scientists from the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center and collaborators found evidence for a widespread tsunami striking the islands between 1250 and 1450 CE.

Independent studies in the Aleutian Islands found evidence of a large earthquake and tsunami at about the same time suggesting that tsunami could have been the source for the extensive coastal flooding in the Hawaiian Islands. Scientists also identified deposits from well-documented historical tsunamis striking Hawaii in 1946 and 1957 — in one case, tracing sand about 500 meters inland. The scientists working in Hawaii did not find additional evidence for a tsunami that was hypothesized to occur sometime from 1552 to 1601 from deposits at the Makauwahi Sinkhole on Kauai. Hawaii emergency managers are using this research to support evacuation maps and for other risk reduction efforts. The paper was published in Sedimentology.

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