American Society of Civil Engineers

Impacts of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami on the Southwest Coasts of Sri Lanka

by Robert A. Morton, (U.S. Geological Survey, 600 Fourth St. S., St. Petersburg, FL E-mail:, James R. Goff, (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd., PO Box 8602, Christchurch, NZ E-mail:, and Scott L. Nichol, (University of Auckland, Bag 92019, Auckland, NZ E-mail:
Section: Tsunami II, pp. 1061-1074, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Coastal Sediments ’07
Abstract: The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused major landscape changes along the southwest coasts of Sri Lanka that were controlled by the flow, natural topography and bathymetry, and anthropogenic modifications of the terrain. Landscape changes included substantial beach erosion and scouring of return-flow channels near the beach, and deposition of sand sheets across the narrow coastal plain. In many areas tsunami deposits also included abundant building rubble due to the extensive destruction of homes and businesses in areas of dense development. Trim lines and flow directions confirmed that shoreline orientation and wave refraction from embayments and rock-anchored headlands locally focused the flow and amplified the inundation. Tsunami deposits were 1 to 36 cm thick but most were less than 25 cm thick. Deposit thickness depended partly on antecedent topography. The deposits were composed of coarse to medium sand organized into a few sets of plane parallel laminae that exhibited overall upward fining and landward thinning trends.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Sri Lanka