Many of the world's active volcanoes are situated on or near coastlines. During eruptions, diverse geophysical mass flows, including pyroclastic flows, debris avalanches, and lahars, can deliver large volumes of unconsolidated debris to the ocean in a short period of time and thereby generate tsunamis. Deposits of both hot and cold volcanic mass flows produced by eruptions of Aleutian arc volcanoes are exposed at many locations along the coastlines of the Bering Sea, North Pacific Ocean, and Cook Inlet, indicating that the flows entered the sea and in some cases may have initiated tsunamis. We evaluate the process of tsunami generation by cold granular subaerial volcanic mass flows using examples from Augustine Volcano in southern Cook Inlet. Augustine Volcano is the most historically active volcano in the Cook Inlet region, and future eruptions, should they lead to debris-avalanche formation and tsunami generation, could be hazardous to some coastal areas. Geological investigations at Augustine Volcano suggest that as many as 12-14 debris avalanches have reached the sea in the last 2000 years, and a debris avalanche emplaced during an A.D. 1883 eruption may have initiated a tsunami that was observed about 80 km east of the volcano at the village of English Bay (Nanwalek) on the coast of the southern Kenai Peninsula. Numerical simulation of mass-flow motion, tsunami generation, propagation, and inundation for Augustine Volcano indicate only modest wave generation by volcanic mass flows and localized wave effects. However, for east-directed mass flows entering Cook Inlet, tsunamis are capable of reaching the more populated coastlines of the southwestern Kenai Peninsula, where maximum water amplitudes of several meters are possible.
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Numerical simulation of tsunami generation by cold volcanic mass flows at Augustine Volcano, Alaska