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Science  11 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6423, pp. 106-108
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6423.106

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  • RE: "surprising landslide-induced tsunami"
    • James Terry, Professor of Geoscience, Zayed University
    • Other Contributors:
      • James Goff, Professor of Tsunami Science, University of New South Wales
      • Vena Pearl Bongolan, Landslide modelling / Associate Professor, University of The Philippines, Diliman
      • Nigel Winspear, Catastrophe Risk Analyst

    The world witnessed two deadly tsunami events in Indonesia in 2018. Both sadly claimed many lives. On 28 September 2018, following a 7.5-magnitude earthquake in northern Sulawesi, a tsunami funnelled into a narrow bay and submerged Palu city. On 22 December 2018, after months of heightened volcanic activity, Anak Krakatau in the Sunda Strait violently erupted, unleashing a tsunami that struck coasts on both Sumatra and Java.

    Although these events had contrasting seismic and volcanic origins, they nonetheless share an important commonality – it was mass movement processes that displaced seawater and generated tsunami waves. The significance of submarine landsliding for tsunamigenesis is a legitimate concern across the Asia-Pacific region because volcanic island flanks, carbonate platforms, and thick sediment wedges on offshore continental slopes, all offer potential for large-scale failure. This is evidenced by arcuate landslide scars (scalloping) along affected coastlines and the discovery of giant submarine failure deposits. A historical tsunami in Taiwan in 1781/2 that killed some 40,000 people has for example been linked to submarine slope failure.

    Modelling of tsunamis generated by submarine landsliding has been attempted, but it is fair to say that the science community remains relatively ignorant regarding this type of tsunamigenesis. This is a serious deficiency. Few of the literally hundreds of potential submarine landslide tsunami sources s...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.