Preliminary Source Characterization and Tsunami Modeling of Submarine Landslides along the Yucatan Shelf/Campeche Escarpment, southern Gulf of Mexico

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Jason D Chaytor1, Eric L Geist2, Charles K Paull3, David W Caress3, Roberto Gwiazda4, Jaime Urrutia Fucugauchi5 and Mario Rebolledo-Vieyra6, (1)USGS, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (2)USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, Menlo Park, CA, United States, (3)Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA, United States, (4)Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Watsonville, CA, United States, (5)Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico, (6)Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, Merida, Mexico
Using high-resolution multibeam bathymetry recently collected by the R/V Falkor, we evaluated the morphology, size, and tsunami-generating potential of a number of large, previously unknown, submarine landslides that excavated sections of the submerged Yucatan Shelf/carbonate platform above the Campeche Escarpment. Landslide evacuations appear to be primarily restricted to the later Cenozoic sections of the margin, removing pelagic sediments deposited above the Cretaceous shallow water carbonates exposed along the face of the escarpment. The largest landslides have evacuated areas of the shelf between 130 and 1,100 km2, possibly removing as much as 70 km3 of material in a single event. Based on the morphology of the evacuated areas, the primary mode of failure appears to be translational and retrogressive, with slide thickness primarily stratigraphically controlled. Displaced material appears to be present within some of the evacuation zones, but because sediments from the Mississippi Fan onlap the base of the Campeche Escarpment, mass-transport deposits from individual landslides have not been identified and therefore run-outs are poorly constrained. The evacuation zones are used to specify the initial conditions for tsunami modeling. Both regional, Gulf of Mexico and near-field simulations are performed to determine the severity and wave-height distribution for six slide scenarios. Preliminary results indicate that the location of maximum wave heights associated with the slide scenarios depend on the direction on down-slope slide movement, although there are significant refraction effects during basin-wide propagation. There is also significant energy dissipation during cross-shelf propagation, with wider shelves lessening the severity of tsunami runup compared to runup at coastal locations adjacent to narrower shelves. Future tsunami hazard assessments in the Gulf of Mexico should account for these large, newly discovered submarine landslides.