Assessing the Relative Mobility of Submarine Landslides from Deposit Morphology and Physical Properties: an Example from Nankai Trough, Offshore Japan

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Derek Sawyer, Ohio State University Main Campus, Columbus, OH, United States and Zachary T Moore, University of Kentucky, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lexington, KY, United States
A prominent landslide deposit in the Slope Basin seaward of the Megasplay Fault in the Nankai Trough was emplaced by a high-mobility landslide based on analysis of physical properties and seismic geomorphology. Slide acceleration is a critical variable that determines amplitude of slide-generated tsunami but is many times a variable with large uncertainty. In controlled laboratory experiments, the ratio of the shear stress to yield strength, defined as the Flow Factor, controls a wide spectrum of mass movement styles from slow, retrogressive failure to rapid, liquefied flows. We apply the laboratory Flow Factor approach to a natural landslide in the Nankai Trough by constraining pre-failure particle size analysis and porosity. Several mass transport deposits (MTDs), were drilled and cored at Site C0021 in the Nankai Trough during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 338. The largest, MTD-6, occurs at 133-176 meters below seafloor and occurred approximately 0.87 Mya. Slide volume is 2 km3, transport distance is 5 km, and average deposit thickness is 50 m (maximum 180 m). Pre-failure water content was estimated from shallow sediments at Site C0018 (porosity = 72%). The average grain size distribution is 39% clay-sized, 58% silt-sized, and 3% sand-size particles as determined by hydrometer analyses of the MTD. Together, the porosity and clay fraction predict a Flow Factor of approximately 4, which corresponds to a relatively high mobility slide. We interpret this result to indicate the landslide that created MTD-6 was a single event that transported the slide mass relatively rapidly as opposed to a slow, episodic landslide event. This is supported by the observation of a completely evacuated source area with no remnant blocks or retrogressive headscarp and the internally chaotic seismic facies with large entrained blocks. Future works will focus on the tsunamigenic potential of this high mobility slide. This approach can be extended to other field settings characterized by fine-grained siliciclastics and where porosity and clay content are known.