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High tsunami frequency as a result of combined strike-slip faulting and coastal landslides

Nature Geoscience

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Abstract

Earthquakes on strike-slip faults can produce devastating natural hazards. However, because they consist predominantly of lateral motion, these faults are rarely associated with significant uplift or tsunami generation. And although submarine slides can generate tsunami, only a few per cent of all tsunami are believed to be triggered in this way. The 12 January Mw 7.0 Haiti earthquake exhibited primarily strike-slip motion but nevertheless generated a tsunami. Here we present data from a comprehensive field survey that covered the onshore and offshore area around the epicentre to document that modest uplift together with slope failure caused tsunamigenesis. Submarine landslides caused the most severe tsunami locally. Our analysis suggests that slide-generated tsunami occur an order-of-magnitude more frequently along the Gonave microplate than global estimates predict. Uplift was generated because of the earthquake's location, where the Caribbean and Gonave microplates collide obliquely. The earthquake also caused liquefaction at several river deltas that prograde rapidly and are prone to failure. We conclude that coastal strike-slip fault systems such as the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault produce relief conducive to rapid sedimentation, erosion and slope failure, so that even modest predominantly strike-slip earthquakes can cause potentially catastrophic slide-generated tsunami - a risk that is underestimated at present.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
High tsunami frequency as a result of combined strike-slip faulting and coastal landslides
Series title:
Nature Geoscience
Volume
3
Year Published:
2010
Language:
English
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Publisher location:
New York, NY
Contributing office(s):
Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description:
6 p.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Nature Geoscience
First page:
783
Last page:
788