James Goff, one of the world’s foremost authorities on tsunamis, said lessons can be learned from history.
“There will definitely be bigger events than we have ever known and it is inevitable that a significant tsunami will hit eastern Australia,” Professor Goff, director of the Australian Tsunami Research Centre, told a Melbourne conference.
While the understanding of tsunamis is relatively simplistic, Prof Goff said there is enough knowledge to make certain conclusions possible.
One of the certainties is that in 1460 a massive volcano near Vanuatu collapsed, releasing forces 10 times that experienced when the Indonesian volcanic island of Krakatoa exploded in 1883.
The Krakatoa explosion is regarded as the most violent volcanic eruption in modern recorded history, resulting in tsunamis that killed an estimated 40,000 people.
The explosion is estimated to be around 13,000 times as powerful as the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima, and was heard 5000 kilometres away.
According to Prof Goff, it was a comparative tiddler.
“The two events in the 15th century were far bigger than Krakatoa, and there are others more than 2000 years ago that we know were at least twice as big,” he said at the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) conference.
Prof Goff said such things are facts.
What can’t be predicted is when they might happen again.
“The really exciting stuff is we’re realising that we’re getting bigger events than we thought possible from places we hadn’t thought of,” he said.
“The place we don’t know enough about historically is the east coast of Australia.
“But we know that there are huge events to come, and they will come here.”