Probabilistic Tsunami Design Zone Maps for the State of Hawaiʻi


The Coastal Zone Management Program is developing high-resolution probabilistic Tsunami Design Zone maps compatible with American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 7-16 for the State. The Tsunami Design Zone maps depict the extent of tsunami impacts. The maps will mitigate tsunami hazards and strengthen Hawaiʻi’s essential facilities and critical infrastructure. The probabilistic Tsunami Design Zone maps will lead to more accurate mapping and modeling for a more resilient Hawaiʻi.

Project Background

The Hawaiʻi Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan identifies tsunamis as a significant hazard, posing a high coastal hazard risk across the State of Hawaiʻi. Tsunamis can cause an estimated average annual loss of $168 Million / Year (HI-EMA, 2013. p. 19-56). Despite the risk, there are no national standards for designing critical facilities to withstand tsunami loads and impacts.

In 2016, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) developed ASCE 7-16, Chapter 6 – Tsunami Loads and Effects – the first national, consensus-based standard for tsunami resilience in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaiʻi.

The development of probabilistic Tsunami Design Zone mapping projects is envisioned to be a multi-year process covering the major Hawaiian Islands and culminating in changes to county building codes for the safety and future resiliency of Hawaiʻi.

To bridge the gap that ASCE identified, the Coastal Zone Management Program is leading the map development of Tsunami Design Zones in alignment with the priorities identified in the State’s Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan. In 2015, the CZM Program collaborated with HI-EMA and identified this initiative as its 2016-2020 Coastal Hazards Strategy, which was approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office for Coastal Management.

These maps will facilitate the ability for state and local jurisdictions to adopt tsunami provisions in their respective building codes. This statewide initiative enables the State Building Code Council and the ASCE to adopt the Tsunami Design Zone maps in the application of the code and will result in increased tsunami resilience.

Essential facilities from left: Queens Medical Center, Halawa Correctional Facility, Honolulu High-rise

Project Overview

Part of the statewide initiative to advancing tsunami resilience is to develop probabilistic Tsunami Design Zone mapping for the state using higher order modeling and mapping for better accuracy and higher resolution. The probabilistic mapping models the probability of a 2,500-year tsunami event. The maps would inform engineers and experts on how best to design essential facilities, critical infrastructure, and taller buildings within the TDZ to be able to withstand tsunami loads and impacts.

The project outcome also proposes draft amendments for each county’s building codes to adopt the probabilistic Tsunami Design Zone maps and model data developed along with styles of maps appropriate for use in their building codes and the ASCE Tsunami Design Geodatabase.

Maximum Wave Amplitude in Hawaiʻi using NEOWAVE, a model used for probabilistic tsunami modeling


Project Timeline

Additional Information about the Project

Press Release

Project Kickoff Presentation

Hawaii Public Radio Feb. 4, 2019 Article with Audio Interview

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