Leveraging Google's Tensor Processing Units for tsunami-risk mitigation planning in the Pacific Northwest and beyond

Ian Madden, Simone Marras, Jenny Suckale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tsunami-risk mitigation planning has particular importance for communities like those of the Pacific Northwest, where coastlines are extremely dynamic and a seismically active subduction zone looms large. The challenge does not stop here for risk managers: mitigation options have multiplied since communities have realized the viability and benefits of nature-based solutions. To identify suitable mitigation options for their community, risk managers need the ability to rapidly evaluate several different options through fast and accessible tsunami models, but they may lack high-performance computing infrastructure. The goal of this work is to leverage Google's Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), a high-performance hardware device accessible via the Google Cloud framework, to enable the rapid evaluation of different tsunami-risk mitigation strategies available to all communities. We establish a starting point through a numerical solver of the nonlinear shallow-water equations that uses a fifth-order weighted essentially non-oscillatory method with the Lax-Friedrichs flux splitting and a total variation diminishing third-order Runge-Kutta method for time discretization. We verify numerical solutions through several analytical solutions and benchmarks, reproduce several findings about one particular tsunami-risk mitigation strategy, and model tsunami runup at Crescent City, California whose topography comes from a high-resolution digital elevation model. The direct measurements of the simulation's performance, energy usage, and ease of execution show that our code could be a first step towards a community-based, user-friendly virtual laboratory that can be run by a minimally trained user on the cloud thanks to the ease of use of the Google Cloud platform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3479-3500
Number of pages22
JournalGeoscientific Model Development
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 27 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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