Estimating the likelihood of tsunamis occurring along the U.S. Atlantic coast critically depends on knowledge of tsunami source probability. We review available information on both earthquake and landslide probabilities from potential sources that could generate local and transoceanic tsunamis. Estimating source probability includes defining both size and recurrence distributions for earthquakes and landslides. For the former distribution, source sizes are often distributed according to a truncated or tapered power-law relationship. For the latter distribution, sources are often assumed to occur in time according to a Poisson process, simplifying the way tsunami probabilities from individual sources can be aggregated. For the U.S. Atlantic coast, earthquake tsunami sources primarily occur at transoceanic distances along plate boundary faults. Probabilities for these sources are constrained from previous statistical studies of global seismicity for similar plate boundary types. In contrast, there is presently little information constraining landslide probabilities that may generate local tsunamis. Though there is significant uncertainty in tsunami source probabilities for the Atlantic, results from this study yield a comparative analysis of tsunami source recurrence rates that can form the basis for future probabilistic analyses.
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Assessment of source probabilities for potential tsunamis affecting the U.S. Atlantic coast