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Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center

Tsunami Hazards, Modeling, and the Sedimentary Record

See also:

Overview

The 11 March 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami underscores that the US is at risk from a deadly, devastating tsunami. The extent of risk is not known. However, the 2009 Samoa tsunami, geologic evidence in the Pacific Northwest and to a lesser degree the Caribbean, historical records in Hawaii, and Alaska, and modeling studies for California and the US East Coast, all indicate that there is significant risk to the US from tsunamis. The effect of a tsunami at a coast, and the resulting risk, is the result of processes that control its generation, propagation, and inundation. Although potential tsunami sources (e.g., underwater earthquakes, landslides) can be identified, it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict with any certainty the largest possible tsunami that will impact an area based solely on current knowledge of source character and tsunami generating capacity. This is borne out by the 11 March 2011 tsunami that was larger in many regions in Japan than the largest historical or predicted tsunami. However, the geologic record did portend that a mega-tsunami would hit eastern Japan. The geologic record revealed that on average every 1000 years a mega-tsunami similar to the one on 11 March hits northeastern Japan.

Basic research to develop the geologic record of paleotsunamis and improve the ability to interpret that record is needed to mitigate tsunami risk in the US.

AK Eq Haz Map 2007 Aerial photo of Morro Bay

Start/End Dates

10/1/2011 - 9/30/2016

Location

California, Alaska

Investigators

Objectives

The objectives of this project are to improve understanding of tsunamis, to develop techniques to assess the threat they pose, and to develop the paleotsunami record using sedimentary deposits. See tasks for specific research objectives.

What could be more relevant than research that can save lives? This project does exactly that by increasing the understanding of tsunami hazard in the US. This understanding informs mitigation of tsunami hazard in numerous ways including allowing development and refinement of evacuation plans, coastal zoning, and tsunami education.

Approach

Our strategy is to apply knowledge and skill gained from past CMG tsunami projects to paleotsunami deposit studies in locations with a known, but not well defined, tsunami hazard. Because the ability to identify and interpret paleotsunami deposits is still an emerging science, by necessity our approach includes targeted studies that develop methods for utilizing tsunami deposits in hazard assessment. These studies increase the value of the location-based paleotsunami studies. The locations of the paleotsunami studies are driven primarily by tsunami hazard potential, but also partially by opportunities to collaborate with researchers both inside and outside of the USGS. This collaboration leverages CMG resources and expertise. Paleotsunami studies will be phased, with initial investigations and more detailed, focused investigations in areas where paleotsunamis deposits are found to assess tsunami hazard. Detailed studies may include tsunami generation, propagation, and inundation modeling and source evaluation components.

Tasks and SubTasks

Modeling tsunami waves
Model setup for (a) the alongshore non-uniform beach and (b) the alongshore non-uniform beach with a conical island. From: Apotsos et al., 2011, Pure and Applied Geophysics v. 168

Cooperators

Photograph from Jaffe, et al., 2012.

Researcher is describing tsunami deposit characteristics including vertical and horizontal variations in sediment grain size and color, layering, presence or absence of sedimentary structures, and nature of contacts. Inset shows cleaned trench face after sampling the upper 5 cm of the deposit. From: Jaffe et al., 2012, Sedimentary Geology v. 282

Products

Apotsos, A., Buckley, M., Gelfenbaum, G., Jaffe, B.E., and Vatvani, D, 2011, Nearshore tsunami inundation and sediment transport modeling: towards model validation and application: Pure and Applied Geophysicsv. 168, 20972119, doi:10.1007/s00024-011-0291-5

Apotsos, A.A., Gelfenbaum, G., and Jaffe, B.E., 2012, Time-dependent onshore tsunami response, Coastal Engineering 64, 73–76, doi:10.1016/j.coastaleng.2012.01.001

Briggs, R.W., Witter, R.C., Nelson, A.R., Koehler, R.D., Haeussler, P.J., Engelhart, S.E., Gelfenbaum, G., Dura, T., and Carver, G.A., 2014, Implications of recent paleoseismic observations for models of Alaska-Aleutian megathrust rupture patterns, (abs) Seismological Society of America 2014 Annual Meeting, Anchorage, AK, 30 April-2 May, 2014, published in Seismological Research Letters 85 (2), p. 474, doi:10.1785/0220140014, download entire abstract volume, 3.5 MB PDF

Chagué-Goff, C., Goto, K., Fujino, S., Nishimura, Y., Sugawara, D., Szczucinski, W., Richmond, B., Tappin, D.R., Jaffe, B.E., Witter, R., Yulianto, E., and Goff, J., 2011, Geological and geochemical field survey on the Sendai Plain following the 11 March 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami, Abstract NH11A-1344 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.

Gelfenbaum, G.R., Apotsos, A.A., and Jaffe, B.E., 2012, Can Differences in hydrodynamic and sediment transport processes between tsunamis and storms help differentiate the resulting deposits? Abstract OS32A-02 presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 3–7 Dec.

Goff, J., Chagué-Goff, C., Nichol, S., Jaffe, B.E., and Dominey-Howes, D., 2012, Progress in paleotsunami research, Sedimentary Geology 243-244, 70-88, doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2011.11.002

Goto, K., Chagué-Goff, C., Fujino, S., Goff, J., Jaffe, B.E., Nishimura, Y., Richmond, B., Sugawara, D., Szczucinski, W., Tappin, D.R., Witter, R., Yulianto, E., 2011, New insights of tsunami hazard from the 2011 Tohoku-oki event, Marine Geology 290, 46–50, doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2011.10.004

Goto, K., Chagué-Goff, C., Goff, J., and Jaffe, B., 2012, The future of tsunami research following the 2011 Tohoku-oki event: Sedimentary Geology, v. 282, p. 1-13, doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2012.08.003

Hemphill-Haley, E., Graehl, N., Hoirup, D., Jaffe, B.E., Kelsey, H., Leeper, R., Peters, R.B., and Wilson, R.I., 2011, Evaluation of Paleotsunami Deposits along the California coast to determine the tsunami threat from distant sources, Abstract NH21C-1524 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.

Jaffe, B.E., 2011, Assessing Tsunami Hazard from the Geologic Record, Abstract NH32A-07 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5- 9 Dec.

Jaffe, B.E., 2012, Assessing Tsunami Hazard from Paleotsunami Deposits, (abs.) United States-Japan Cooperative Program in Natural Resources, Oct. 9-12, Denver, CO

Jaffe, B.E., Gelfenbaum, G., Richmond, B., and Watt, S., 2012, Anatomies of sandy tsunami and storm deposits, Abstract OS33B-1826 presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 3–7 Dec.

Jaffe, B.E., Goto, K., Sugawara, D., Richmond, B., Fujino, S., and Nishimura, Y., 2012, Flow speed estimated by inverse modeling of sandy tsunami deposits: results from the 11 March 2011 tsunami on the coastal plain near the Sendai Airport, Honshu, Japan, Sedimentary Geology 282, p. 90-109, doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2012.09.002

Jaffe, B.E., Peters, R., and Richmond, B.M., 2011, The Sedimentary Signature of Recent Tsunamis, Abstract OS43D-08 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.

Jaffe, B.E., Richmond, B., Gelfenbaum, G., Lunghino, B, and Watt, S., 2013, Do larger tsunamis form thicker deposits? Abstract NH51D-05 presented at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 9-13 Dec.

Jaffe, B.E., Richmond. B., Wilson, R., Eileen Hemphill-Haley, E., Kelsey, H.M., Peters, R., Leeper, R., and Watt, S., 2014, California marshes as recorders of paleotsunamis: Example from Pillar Point, (abs) Seismological Society of America 2014 Annual Meeting, Anchorage, AK, 30 April-2 May, 2014, published in Seismological Research Letters 85 (2), p. 535, doi:10.1785/0220140014, download entire abstract volume, 3.5 MB PDF

La Selle, S. and Gelfenbaum, G.R., 2013, Modeling potential tsunami sources for deposits near Unalaska Island, Aleutian Islands, Abstract NH41A-1700 presented at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 9–13 Dec.

Morton, R.A., Gelfenbaum, G., Buckley, M.L., and Richmond, B.M., 2011, Geological effects and implications of the 2010 tsunami along the central coast of Chile: Sedimentary Geology 242, 34-51, doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2011.09.004

Nelson, A.R., Briggs, R.W., Dura, T., Engelhart, S.E., Gelfenbaum, G., Bradley, L.A., Forman, S., and Vane, C.H., 2014, Tsunami recurrence in the Eastern Aleutian Arc: a record of 6-14 high tsunamis in 3400 years on Chirikof Island, Alaska, (abs) Seismological Society of America 2014 Annual Meeting, Anchorage, AK, 30 April-2 May, 2014, published in Seismological Research Letters 85 (2), p. 441, doi:10.1785/0220140014, download entire abstract volume, 3.5 MB PDF

Richmond, B., Goto, K., Fujino, S., Nishimura, Y., Sugawara, Tappin, D.R., Witter, R., Jaffe, B.E., Chagué-Goff, C., Szczucinski, W., Yulianto, E., and Goff, J., 2011, Field observations of erosion, deposition, and tsunami flow characteristics on the Sendai Coastal Plain after the March 2011, Tohoku-oki tsunami, Japan, Abstract NH13G- 07 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.

Richmond, B.M., Jaffe, B.E., Gelfenbaum, G.R., Szczucinski, W., Goff, J., Goto, K., Sugawara, D., Witter, R.C., Tappin, D.R., Shigehiro, F., Nishimura, Y., and Chagué-Goff, C., 2012, Do tsunami deposits thin landward? Observations from the 11 March 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami on the Sendai Coastal Plain, Abstract NH43B-1662 presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 3–7 Dec.

Richmond, B., Szczucinski, W., Chagué-Goff, C., Goto, K., Sugawara, D., Witter, R., Tappin, D.R., Jaffe, B.E., Fujino, S., Nishimura, Y., and Goff, J., 2012, Erosion, deposition and landscape change on the Sendai coastal plain, Japan, resulting from the March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami: Sedimentary Geology 282, p. 27-39, doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2012.08.005

Rockwell, T.K., Peters, B., Hemphill-Haley, E., McGann, E., Richmond, B., Jaffe, B., Wilson, R., and Ross, S., 2012, Western Transverse Ranges Tsunami Project: Do Great Earthquakes occur on a linked Western Transverse Ranges Thrust System? SCEC Annual Meeting, Palm Springs, California, Sept. 9-12, 2012, http://www.scec.org/meetings/2012am/, download the Full Proceedings PDF, 6 MB

Sugawara, D., Goto, K., Goff, J., Jaffe, B., Richmond, B., Chagué-Goff, C., Szczucinski, W., Yokoyama, Y., Miyairi, Y., Sawada, C., 2014, Modern and possible paleotsunami deposits in Samenoura, Sanriku Coast, and their relation to tsunami source mechanisms Abstract (in Japanense) MIS23-10-01 presented at Japan Geoscience Union Meeting 2014, Yokohama, Japan, 28 April–2 May

Szczucinski, W., Chagué-Goff, C., Goff, J., Goto, K., Sugawara, D., Kokocinski, M., Cachao, M., Rzeszewski, M., and Jaffe, B.E., 2012, Sediment sources, sedimentation processes and post-depositional changes of the 2011 Tohoku-Oki tsunami deposits on the Sendai Plain, Japan, Abstract NH41C-01 presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 3–7 Dec.

Tappin, David R., Hannah M. Evans, Colm J. Jordan, Bruce Richmond, Daisuke Sugawara, and Kazuhisa Goto, 2012, Coastal changes in the Sendai area from the impact of the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami: Interpretations of time series satellite images, helicopter-borne video footage and field observations: Sedimentary Geology, v. 282, pp. 151–174, doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2012.09.011

Wilson, R.I., Davenport, C., and Jaffe, B.E., 2012, Sediment scour and deposition within harbors in California (USA), caused by the March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami: Sedimentary Geology 282, p. 228-240, doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2012.06.001

Witter, R.C., Briggs, R.W., Koehler, R.D., Gelfenbaum, G., Engelhart, S.E., Nelson, A.R., Carver, G.A., Bender, A.M., and Hemphill-Haley, E., 2014, Evidence for high tsunamis in the Fox Islands implies repeated Aleutian megathrust earthquakes in the Unalaska seismic gap, (abs) Seismological Society of America 2014 Annual Meeting, Anchorage, AK, 30 April-2 May, 2014, published in Seismological Research Letters 85 (2), p. 442, doi:10.1785/0220140014, download entire abstract volume, 3.5 MB PDF

Witter; R.C., Carver, G.A., Bender, A.M.; Briggs, R.W., Gelfenbaum, G.R., and Koehler, R.D., 2013, Six large tsunamis in the past ~1700 years at Stardust Bay, Sedanka Island, Alaska, Abstract NH44A-08 presented at 2013 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 9-13 Dec.

Witter, R.C., Jaffe, B.E., Zhang, Y., and Priest, G., 2012, Reconstruction hydrodynamic flow parameters of the 1700 tsunami at Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA: Natural Hazards, v. 63, no. 1, p. 223-240. doi:10.1007/s11069-011-9912-7

Weiss, R. and Jaffe, B.E., 2011, Deposits from the Japan Tsunami on Sendai Plane: Quantitative analysis, Abstract NH11A-1358 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.

Wilson, R.I., Miller, K., Davenport, C., Nicolini, T., Dengler, L., Admire, A.R., Synolakis, C., Barberopoulou, A, Borrero, J.C., Lynett, P.J., Jaffe, B.E., and Curtis, E., 2011, Comparison of strong currents and impacts on the California (USA) maritime communities from the 2010 Chile and 2011 Japan teletsunamis, Abstract NH11A-1342 presented at 2011 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., 5-9 Dec.

 

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