Catastrophic landscape modification from a massive landslide tsunami in Taan Fiord, Alaska

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Geological Sciences

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The October 17th, 2015 Taan Fiord landslide and tsunami generated a runup of 193 m, nearly an order of magnitude greater than most previously surveyed tsunamis. To date, most post-tsunami surveys are from earthquake-generated tsunamis and the geomorphic signatures of landslide tsunamis or their potential for preservation are largely uncharacterized. Additionally, clear modifications described during previous post-tsunami surveys are often ephemeral and unlikely to be preserved. Documented geomorphic modifications of several low gradient fan deltas within Taan Fiord make it an excellent laboratory for characterizing signatures of a landslide tsunami event. Geomorphic changes to fan deltas in Taan Fiord caused by the landslide-generated tsunami included complete vegetation loss over more than 0.6 km2 of fan surfaces, formation of steep fan front scarps up to 10 m high, extensive local alterations of fan topography, and formation of new tsunami return-flow channels. Two relatively stable fan deltas in Taan Fiord were heavily vegetated prior to the Taan event and may preserve features of tsunami modification for decades to centuries. If this is the case, fan deltas may be a previously unrecognized location for preservation of tsunami signatures in the recent past. Fans in poorly monitored regions, such as Greenland, could thus hold evidence of previously unidentified recent landslide tsunami events.


This article was originally published in Geomorphology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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