Storm Surge of Supertyphoon Haiyan (7–9 Nov 2013) on Samar (Philippines) Moved the Largest Boulder Ever Documented for a Recent Storm
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Supertyphoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) struck the Philippines on 7–9 Nov 2013. It constantly reached category 5 (SSH scale) during its crossing of the archipelago. Storm surge heights of more than 7 m, wave heights of up to 5 m, and extensive flooding along the coast are reported. The death toll surpassed 6,000 individuals, and more than 16 M people were affected in total. The massive storm surge, which surprised many residents in particular on Samar and Leyte, also initiated the dislocation of large boulders at the coastline of SE Samar. Since such deposits may indicate maximum flooding distances and flow velocities of extreme wave events over timescales exceeding the era of historical documentation, they have increasingly been explored as a source for coastal hazard assessment. However, there is no clear consensus on differences in transport capacities and boulder field patterns created by storms and tsunamis. Thus, records from recent events provide a pivotal reference for process-related interpretation of other coastal boulder fields. We conducted a geomorphological and sedimentological survey after Haiyan on Leyte, Samar, Negros, and Bantayan. In SE Samar, the largest boulder (~75 m³; 9.0 x 4.5 x 3.5 m³; ~180 t) was shifted for 45 m on an inclined upper intertidal platform behind a Holocene reef by longshore sliding. A clast of ~70 t was moved by saltation and/or rolling for the same distance. A boulder of ~23.5 t was quarried at 2 m a.s.l. (above mean sea level) from the cliff edge of the Pleistocene carbonate platform and transported to a position of 6 m a.s.l. Boulders of up to ~17 t were moved from 6.5 to 10 m a.s.l., 2 m below the highest flood marks. Volumes of the limestone boulders were calculated using DGPS-derived point clouds transferred to ArcGIS. Densities were estimated to be around 2.3 g cm-3 using rock samples and the Archimedean principle. Downward-facing rock pools, grass patches, living barnacles, roots and soil staining on exposed former bottom sides, and fresh wood jammed under the rocks provide unambiguous evidence for subrecent transport and overturning. We conclude that the geological legacy of Haiyan calls for a careful reconsideration of possible storm surge transport where boulders, based on their size, have previously been associated with tsunami impacts and storms have been ruled out to be the cause.