Inundation Mapping and Hazard Assessment of Tectonic and Landslide Tsunamis in Southeast Alaska
Monday, 15 December 2014
The Alaska Earthquake Center conducts tsunami inundation mapping for coastal communities in Alaska, and is currently focused on the southeastern region and communities of Yakutat, Elfin Cove, Gustavus and Hoonah. This activity provides local emergency officials with tsunami hazard assessment, planning, and mitigation tools. At-risk communities are distributed along several segments of the Alaska coastline, each having a unique seismic history and potential tsunami hazard. Thus, a critical component of our project is accurate identification and characterization of potential tectonic and landslide tsunami sources. The primary tectonic element of Southeast Alaska is the Fairweather - Queen Charlotte fault system, which has ruptured in 5 large strike-slip earthquakes in the past 100 years. The 1958 “Lituya Bay" earthquake triggered a large landslide into Lituya Bay that generated a 540-m-high wave. The M7.7 Haida Gwaii earthquake of October 28, 2012 occurred along the same fault, but was associated with dominantly vertical motion, generating a local tsunami. Communities in Southeast Alaska are also vulnerable to hazards related to locally generated waves, due to proximity of communities to landslide-prone fjords and frequent earthquakes. The primary mechanisms for local tsunami generation are failure of steep rock slopes due to relaxation of internal stresses after deglaciation, and failure of thick unconsolidated sediments accumulated on underwater delta fronts at river mouths. We numerically model potential tsunami waves and inundation extent that may result from future hypothetical far- and near-field earthquakes and landslides. We perform simulations for each source scenario using the Alaska Tsunami Model, which is validated through a set of analytical benchmarks and tested against laboratory and field data. Results of numerical modeling combined with historical observations are compiled on inundation maps and used for site-specific tsunami hazard assessment by emergency planners.