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GNS Science works with a number of groups, including NIWA, universities, and private individuals, to improve the knowledge of tsunami hazards in New Zealand.


A tsunami is a wave or series of waves caused by the sudden displacement of water by an earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide or even a meteorite impact.

Recent huge tsunamis such as the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 and the Japanese Tsunami of 2011 have alerted the world to the destructive power of these events.

Scientists work hard to understand where and how future tsunamis may be generated, and also to identify evidence of past tsunamis that record the size and frequency of previous events.

Countries with vulnerable coastlines, including New Zealand and others around the Pacific, collaborate together with tsunami monitoring and communication systems. They use seismic data to predict possible tsunami threats and tidal (water pressure) sensors to track tsunami arrival times and assess the impacts at different locations.

tsunami sign

An understanding of ocean floor geology when combined with tsunami data can be used to model the risk of tsunamis occurring in different parts of New Zealand. This helps planners best prepare for the consequences should a tsunami occur. Understanding tsunami wave behaviour off-shore and after arrival at the coast helps scientists to develop maps showing which locations could be affected by tsunami wave inundation.

These models also help build community resilience by allowing increased public education and evacuation planning, for example by publication of Tsunami evacuation maps or warning signs

Read about the latest report on New Zealand's Tsunami hazards


So it is likely that at least one such event will occur in the lifetime of most New Zealanders.

Dr William Powers


A 2013 report on New Zealand’s tsunami hazards shows that some parts of the New Zealand coast are exposed to greater tsunami hazard than previously thought, while the hazard in other coastal regions is the same or even less. The report notes that earthquakes in some offshore areas, while not more likely, could be bigger than previously thought. This is because there is now more uncertainty about the maximum size of earthquakes on plate boundaries.Read the press release here or download the report here Tsunami Report 2013.pdf (11.10 MB)

Tsunami links on GeoNet

Tsunami links on Natural Hazards research Platform site

More Info:

2013 Tsunami Hazard report

Tsunami Report 2013.pdf (11.10 MB)

  • GeoNet - real-time New Zealand hazard monitoring

Tsunami Data