Reconstructing Flow Patterns from Tsunami Deposits with No Visible Sedimentary Structure

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Claire L Kain1, Catherine Chague-Goff1,2, James R Goff1, Patrick Wassmer3, Christopher A Gomez4 and Deirdre E Hart4, (1)University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia, (2)Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, Kirrawee, Australia, (3)University Paris 1, Laboratory of Physical Geography, Paris, France, (4)University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
High energy coastal events, such as tsunamis, commonly leave sediment deposits in the landscape that may be preserved in the geological record. A set of anomalous sand and silt layers intercalated between soil units was identified alongside an estuary in Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand. Okains Bay, comprised of a coastal plain of Holocene progradational dune ridges, was flooded by tsunamis in 1868 and 1960. Previous research has assessed the relationship between tsunami flow patterns and sediment deposits for recent events, and we aim to extend this application to older deposits where flow patterns were not recorded and sedimentary structures are not visually apparent. A multi-proxy approach was used to investigate the sediment deposits at twelve sites along a 2 km length of the estuary margin and map inundation patterns. Measurements of Magnetic Fabric (MF: Anisotropy of Magnetic Susceptibility) were used to determine the flow direction during deposition, alongside stratigraphy and particle size analyses to assess wave energy. Flow direction results were overlaid on a digital elevation model of the study site to interpret flow patterns. Deposits became thinner and particle size decreased with distance from the coast, indicating waning flow energy with distance inland. MF results indicate that inundation occurred via the estuary channel, with primary flow directions oriented perpendicular or sub-perpendicular to the channel at each site. On a smaller scale, results showed evidence of current reversal at some sites, with flow directed alternately away from and towards the estuary channel. This is consistent with uprush and backwash patterns observed in tsunami wave sequences. Topographic control of flow patterns is also evident from the data. This research demonstrates a method for investigating older, structurally-degraded deposits and has implications for the reconstruction of paleotsunami inundation from their sedimentary deposits.