In the late 1980s, a Japanese scientist named Koji Minoura stumbled on a medieval poem that described a tsunami so large it had swept away a castle and killed a thousand people. Intrigued, Minoura and his team began looking for paleontological evidence of the tsunami beneath rice paddies, and discovered not one but three massive, earthquake-triggered waves that had wracked the Sendai coast over the past three thousand years.
For the past several decades, paleo-hydrologist Victor Baker of the University of Arizona has been using techniques similar to Minoura’s to study the flood history of the Colorado Plateau. Like Minoura, he’s found that floods much larger than any in recorded history are routine occurrences. And like Minoura, he feels his research is being largely ignored by agencies and public utilities with infrastructure in the path of such floods.