Japanese researchers have spent the past few months surveying tsunami damage at 5300 coastal locations. This information has created the largest tsunami survey dataset in the world and the first map to visualise the crushing impact of the wave.
In the above damage map, the blue colouring shows how far the destructive wave travelled inward and the coloured bars show how high the wave was when it made landfall. It's amazing to see the variation in the strength of the wave. That area in the centre -- that's Sendai Plain which was struck by a wave 19.5m high and travelled over 5km inland.
This information can't be used to predict when or if a tsunami will hit, but it will help researchers isolate those areas whose geological characteristics increase the intensity of a tsunami. That's a good thing to know as Japan rebuilds and repopulates its coastal area. [Geophysical Research Letters via NewScientist]