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Concept: Tsunami


It has been proposed that ~3.4 billion years ago an ocean fed by enormous catastrophic floods covered most of the Martian northern lowlands. However, a persistent problem with this hypothesis is the lack of definitive paleoshoreline features. Here, based on geomorphic and thermal image mapping in the circum-Chryse and northwestern Arabia Terra regions of the northern plains, in combination with numerical analyses, we show evidence for two enormous tsunami events possibly triggered by bolide impacts, resulting in craters ~30 km in diameter and occurring perhaps a few million years apart. The tsunamis produced widespread littoral landforms, including run-up water-ice-rich and bouldery lobes, which extended tens to hundreds of kilometers over gently sloping plains and boundary cratered highlands, as well as backwash channels where wave retreat occurred on highland-boundary surfaces. The ice-rich lobes formed in association with the younger tsunami, showing that their emplacement took place following a transition into a colder global climatic regime that occurred after the older tsunami event. We conclude that, on early Mars, tsunamis played a major role in generating and resurfacing coastal terrains.

Concepts: Climate, Greek loanwords, Mars, Pacific Ocean, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Tsunami, Flood, Landform


There is increasing recognition of the long-lasting effects of tsunamis on human populations. This is particularly notable along tectonically active coastlines with repeated inundations occurring over thousands of years. Given the often high death tolls reported from historical events though it is remarkable that so few human skeletal remains have been found in the numerous palaeotsunami deposits studied to date. The 1929 discovery of the Aitape Skull in northern Papua New Guinea and its inferred late Pleistocene age played an important role in discussions about the origins of humans in Australasia for over 25 years until it was more reliably radiocarbon dated to around 6000 years old. However, no similar attention has been given to reassessing the deposit in which it was found-a coastal mangrove swamp inundated by water from a shallow sea. With the benefit of knowledge gained from studies of the 1998 tsunami in the same area, we conclude that the skull was laid down in a tsunami deposit and as such may represent the oldest known tsunami victim in the world. These findings raise the question of whether other coastal archaeological sites with human skeletal remains would benefit from a re-assessment of their geological context.

Concepts: Human, Indonesia, Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Tsunami, Pleistocene, New Guinea, Mangrove


Historian Ammianus Marcellinus documented the devastating effects of a tsunami hitting Alexandria, Egypt, on July 21, AD 365. “The solidity of the earth was made to shake … and the sea was driven away. The waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning. Huge ships… perched on the roofs of houses… hurled miles from the shore….”. Other settlements around the Mediterranean were hit at roughly the same time. This scenario is similar to that of the recent Sumatra and Tohoku tsunamis. Based on geophysical surveys and sediment cores from the Ionian Sea we show that the 20-25 m thick megaturbidite known in the literature as Homogenite/Augias was triggered not by the Santorini caldera collapse but by the 365 AD Cretan earthquake/tsunami. An older similar megaturbidite was deposited after 14.590 ± 80 yr BP, implying a large recurrence time of such extreme sedimentary events in the Mediterranean Sea.

Concepts: Mediterranean Sea, Italy, Alexandria, Tsunami, Greece, Santorini, 365 Crete earthquake, Ammianus Marcellinus


A series of tsunami-like waves of non-seismic origin struck several southern European countries during the period of 23 to 27 June 2014. The event caused considerable damage from Spain to Ukraine. Here, we show that these waves were long-period ocean oscillations known as meteorological tsunamis which are generated by intense small-scale air pressure disturbances. An unique atmospheric synoptic pattern was tracked propagating eastward over the Mediterranean and the Black seas in synchrony with onset times of observed tsunami waves. This pattern favoured generation and propagation of atmospheric gravity waves that induced pronounced tsunami-like waves through the Proudman resonance mechanism. This is the first documented case of a chain of destructive meteorological tsunamis occurring over a distance of thousands of kilometres. Our findings further demonstrate that these events represent potentially dangerous regional phenomena and should be included in tsunami warning systems.

Concepts: Climate, Europe, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Tsunami, Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis, Warning systems, Tsunami warning system, Pacific Tsunami Warning Center


The devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caught millions of coastal residents and the scientific community off-guard. Subsequent research in the Indian Ocean basin has identified prehistoric tsunamis, but the timing and recurrence intervals of such events are uncertain. Here we present an extraordinary 7,400 year stratigraphic sequence of prehistoric tsunami deposits from a coastal cave in Aceh, Indonesia. This record demonstrates that at least 11 prehistoric tsunamis struck the Aceh coast between 7,400 and 2,900 years ago. The average time period between tsunamis is about 450 years with intervals ranging from a long, dormant period of over 2,000 years, to multiple tsunamis within the span of a century. Although there is evidence that the likelihood of another tsunamigenic earthquake in Aceh province is high, these variable recurrence intervals suggest that long dormant periods may follow Sunda megathrust ruptures as large as that of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Concepts: Indonesia, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Tsunami, Somalia, Sumatra, Aceh


Caldera-forming eruptions of island volcanoes generate tsunamis by the interaction of different eruptive phenomena with the sea. Such tsunamis are a major hazard, but forward models of their impacts are limited by poor understanding of source mechanisms. The caldera-forming eruption of Santorini in the Late Bronze Age is known to have been tsunamigenic, and caldera collapse has been proposed as a mechanism. Here, we present bathymetric and seismic evidence showing that the caldera was not open to the sea during the main phase of the eruption, but was flooded once the eruption had finished. Inflow of water and associated landsliding cut a deep, 2.0-2.5 km(3), submarine channel, thus filling the caldera in less than a couple of days. If, as at most such volcanoes, caldera collapse occurred syn-eruptively, then it cannot have generated tsunamis. Entry of pyroclastic flows into the sea, combined with slumping of submarine pyroclastic accumulations, were the main mechanisms of tsunami production.

Concepts: Volcano, Tsunami, Flood, Bronze Age, Volcanology, Caldera, Santorini, Ignimbrite


The 2011 East Japan earthquake generated a massive tsunami that launched an extraordinary transoceanic biological rafting event with no known historical precedent. We document 289 living Japanese coastal marine species from 16 phyla transported over 6 years on objects that traveled thousands of kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to the shores of North America and Hawai'i. Most of this dispersal occurred on nonbiodegradable objects, resulting in the longest documented transoceanic survival and dispersal of coastal species by rafting. Expanding shoreline infrastructure has increased global sources of plastic materials available for biotic colonization and also interacts with climate change-induced storms of increasing severity to eject debris into the oceans. In turn, increased ocean rafting may intensify species invasions.

Concepts: Hawaii, United States, Atlantic Ocean, Japan, Pacific Ocean, Ocean, Tsunami, Marine debris


Large earthquakes trigger very small earthquakes globally during passage of the seismic waves and during the following several hours to days, but so far remote aftershocks of moment magnitude M ≥ 5.5 have not been identified, with the lone exception of an M = 6.9 quake remotely triggered by the surface waves from an M = 6.6 quake 4,800 kilometres away. The 2012 east Indian Ocean earthquake that had a moment magnitude of 8.6 is the largest strike-slip event ever recorded. Here we show that the rate of occurrence of remote M ≥ 5.5 earthquakes (>1,500 kilometres from the epicentre) increased nearly fivefold for six days after the 2012 event, and extended in magnitude to M ≤ 7. These global aftershocks were located along the four lobes of Love-wave radiation; all struck where the dynamic shear strain is calculated to exceed 10(-7) for at least 100 seconds during dynamic-wave passage. The other M ≥ 8.5 mainshocks during the past decade are thrusts; after these events, the global rate of occurrence of remote M ≥ 5.5 events increased by about one-third the rate following the 2012 shock and lasted for only two days, a weaker but possibly real increase. We suggest that the unprecedented delayed triggering power of the 2012 earthquake may have arisen because of its strike-slip source geometry or because the event struck at a time of an unusually low global earthquake rate, perhaps increasing the number of nucleation sites that were very close to failure.

Concepts: English-language films, Indian Ocean, Earthquake, Tsunami, Seismic wave, Fault, Epicenter, Aftershock


The Fukushima Daiichi power station released several radionuclides into the Pacific following the March 2011 earthquake & tsunami. A total of 26 Pacific albacore (Thunnus alalunga) caught off the Pacific Northwest US coast between 2008 and 2012 were analyzed for 137Cs and Fukushima-attributed 134Cs. Both 2011 (2 of 2) and several 2012 (10 of 17) edible tissue samples exhibited increased activity concentrations of 137Cs (234 - 824 mBq/kg wet weight) and 134Cs (18.2 - 356 mBq/kg wet weight). The remaining 2012 samples and all pre-Fukushima (2008-2009) samples possessed lower 137Cs activity concentrations (103 - 272 mBq/kg wet weight) with no detectable 134Cs activity. Age, as indicated by fork length, was a strong predictor for both the presence and concentration of 134Cs (p < 0.001). Notably, many migration-aged fish did not exhibit any 134Cs, suggesting they had not recently migrated near Japan. None of the tested samples would represent a significant change in annual radiation dose if consumed by humans.

Concepts: Japan, Pacific Ocean, Pacific Northwest, Tsunami, Tuna, Thunnus, Scombridae, Portland, Oregon


We present derivations of shallow water model equations of Korteweg-de Vries and Boussinesq type for equatorial tsunami waves in the f-plane approximation and discuss their applicability.This article is part of the theme issue ‘Nonlinear water waves’.

Concepts: 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Partial differential equations, Tsunami, Theme music, Shallow water equations, Water waves, Equations of fluid dynamics, Adhémar Jean Claude Barré de Saint-Venant