Sedimentology of tsunami inflow and backflow deposits: key differences revealed in a modern example

Bahlburg, Heinrich and Spiske, Michaela. (2012) Sedimentology of tsunami inflow and backflow deposits: key differences revealed in a modern example. Sedimentology, 59 (3). pp. 1063-1086.

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Onshore tsunami deposits may consist of inflow and backflow deposits. Grain sizes can range from clay to boulders of several metres in diameter. Grain‐size distributions reflect the mode of deposition and may be used to explore the hydrodynamic conditions of transport. The absence of unique sedimentary features identifying tsunami deposits makes it difficult in some cases to distinguish inflow from backflow deposits. On Isla Mocha off central Chile, the 27 February 2010 tsunami left behind inflow and backflow deposits of highly variable character. Tsunami inflow entrained sands, gravels and boulders in the upper shoreface, beach, and along coastal terraces. Boulders of up to 12 t were transported up to 300 m inland and 13 m above sea‐level. Thin veneers of coarse sand were found up to the maximum runup at 600 m inland and 19 m above sea‐level. Backflow re‐mobilized most of the sands and gravels deposited during inflow. The orientation of erosional structures indicates that significant volumes of sediment were entrained also during backflow. A major feature of the backflow deposits are widespread prograding fans of coarse sediment developed downcurrent of terrace steps. Fan sediments are mostly structureless but include cross‐bedding, imbrication and ripples, indicating deposition from bedload traction currents. The sediments are poorly sorted, grain sizes range between medium to coarse sand to gravel and pebbles. An assessment of the backflow transport conditions of this mixed material suggests that bedload transport at Rouse numbers >2·5 was achieved by supercritical flows, whereas deposition occurred when currents had decelerated sufficiently on the low‐gradient lower coastal plain. The sedimentary record of the February 2010 tsunami at Isla Mocha consists of backflow deposits to more than 90%. Due to the lack of sedimentary structures, many previous studies of modern tsunami sediments found that most of the detritus was deposited during inflow. This study demonstrates that an uncritical use of this assumption may lead to erroneous interpretations of palaeotsunami magnitudes and sedimentary processes if unknowingly applied to backflow deposits.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Ehemalige Einheiten Umweltwissenschaften > Sedimentology (Wetzel)
UniBasel Contributors:Spiske, Michaela
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:04 Dec 2020 16:07
Deposited On:04 Dec 2020 16:07

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