Ultra-long period and small-amplitude tsunami generated following the July 2020 Alaska Mw7.8 tsunamigenic earthquake

Mohammad Heidarzadeh, Iyan E. Mulia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The July 2020 Mw7.8 Alaska tsunamigenic earthquake was a fresh call for potential large tsunamis associated with the Aleutian subduction zone. The second largest ever-recorded earthquake worldwide (Mw 9.2) occurred in this zone in 1964 indicating its massive earthquake and tsunami risk. Our analysis of the July 2020 tsunami revealed that it involves very long period waves (51–64 min) which is unusual for an Mw7.8 earthquake. The tsunami coastal amplitude was small (~0.5 m) which is much smaller than that usually expected from a tsunamigenic earthquake of this size. Here, through numerical simulations and spectral analyses, we explain the ultra-long period and small amplitude waves of the tsunami. Our analysis using an analytical equation showed that the ultra-long period of the tsunami (51–64 min) can be reproduced using the shallow water depth around the source region (100–200 m) and the length of the coseismic deformation area (~100 km). By comparing the coastal amplitude of this event with four other similar-size and similar-mechanism earthquakes (thrust Mw7.8), we attribute the relatively small coastal amplitude of this tsunami to the deep focal depth of the earthquake (28 km) and the extremely shallow water around the source region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109243
JournalOcean Engineering
Early online date6 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2021


  • Alaska
  • Aleutian subduction zone
  • Earthquake
  • Numerical simulations
  • Pacific ocean
  • Tsunami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering


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