Boulder Dislodgment Reloaded: New insights from boulder transport and dislodgement by tsunamis and storms from three-dimensional numerical simulations with GPUSPH

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Robert Weiss, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, United States and Amir Zainali, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, United States
Boulders can be found on many coastlines around the globe. They are generally thought to be moved either during coastal storms or tsunamis because they are too heavy to be moved by more common marine or coastal processes. To understand storm and tsunami risk at given coastline, the event histories of both events need to be separated to produce a robust event statistics for quantitative risk analyses. Because boulders are most likely only moved by coastal storms or tsunamis, they are very suitable to produce the data basis for such event statistics.

Boulder transport problem has been approached by comparing the driving with resisting forces acting on a boulder. However, we argue that this approach is not sufficient because the comparison of resisting and driving forces only constitutes boulder motion, but not for boulder dislodgment. Boulder motion means that the boulder starts to move out of its pocket. However, this motion does not guarantee that the boulder will reach the critical dislodgment position. Boulder dislodgment is a necessary condition to identify whether or not a boulder has moved. For boulder dislodgement, an equation of motion is needed, and that equation is Newtons Second Law of Motion (NSL). We perform fully coupled three-dimensional numerical simulation of boulders moved by waves where the boulders move according to NSL.

Our numerical simulations are the first of their kind applied to tsunami and storm boulder motion. They show how storm and tsunami waves interact with boulders in a more realistic physical setting, and highlight the importance of submergence. Based on our simulations we perform a dimensional analysis that identifies the Froude number as important parameter, which can be considered large only in the front of tsunami waves, but small in the rest of tsunami wave and also generally small in storm waves. From a general point of view, our results indicate that the boulder transport problem is more complex than recently considered, and more variables need to be considered in inversions of the wave characteristics from moved boulders. However, numerical simulations are an incredible powerful and flexible tool with which more robust and more correct techniques to invert wave characteristics from moved boulders can be developed. Our analyses of the Froude number and submergence are positive indicators.