Tsunami

Tsunamis in the Caribbean Sea – Implications from coarse-clast deposits and the importance of their shape

This presentation gives an overview of the results of a five-year research project on tsunami-induced boulder transport. It stresses the importance of the exact determination of boulder shapes in contrast to simplified bodies (such as cuboids), especially with regard to the transport distance. It also provides insights about a newly developed numerical boulder-transport model based on Pudasaini (2012). Additionally, some ideas how experimental research on tsunami-induced boulder transport may be improved and coordinated in the future will be presented.

The investigations by physical experiments are based on three boulder shapes of which one depicts the replica of an original boulder from the island of Bonaire (Caribbean Sea, Lesser Antilles). The experiments clearly reveal that the available impact area of the boulder has a great significance; however, this is so far insufficiently considered in analytical equations. In the given case, the comparison between the more streamline-shaped replica of the Bonaire boulder and an idealised cuboid boulder resulted in reduced transport distances of 30 %, in average. Additionally, statistical evaluations revealed that the entire process is highly sensitive with partly stochastic behaviour. Thus, we support the statement of Bressan et al. (2018) in this regard. We show, how important it is to calculate and communicate wave thresholds for mobilisation in terms of probability ranges instead of fixed values.

Based on the results of our own physical experiments and the evaluation of published physical experiments, we developed a tool, which supports researchers in assessing the accuracy of analytical equations for specific in-situ settings (Oetjen et al., 2021). This tool encompasses the crucial parameters (e.g., bottom roughness, boulder shape), combines their influence on the transport process and finally gives an indication of whether the present conditions tend to amplify or hamper the boulder transport. The benefit and the usage of the above-mentioned tool will be demonstrated exemplarily.

Furthermore, within the framework of the project a numerical Boulder-Transport-Model was developed which is based on the Immersed Boundary Method and the Two-Phase Flow Model of Pudasaini (2012). Insights into the functionality of the model and the importance of the increased flow density will be highlighted, while the further development steps will be indicated.

As part of the project, we also dealt with the future development of research on tsunami-induced boulder transport (cf. Oetjen et al., 2021). One important suggestion is to establish a standardised reference setup for experimental investigations within the research community. It would enable researchers to compare the results of their own experiments and the effect of the investigated parameters with well-documented reference values and assist them to evaluate and classify their experimental results accordingly.

Date
2022
Data type
Other resources
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire

Tsunami hazard assessment on Bonaire based on sedimentary traces of prehistoric high-energy waves

The Caribbean region is highly vulnerable to coastal hazards since a relatively high percentage of the population lives right at the coast. Tourism, a major economic factor on many islands, is concentrated in coastal areas as well. The “traditional” hazards along the coasts of the Caribbean, as perceived some decades ago, are earthquakes, volcanism and storm surges during hurricanes. This focus is justified in the light of the devastating earthquake of Haiti in 2010, which represents a regional maximum in magnitude with a death toll of more than 230,000. The eruption of Mount Pelée on Martinique, which destroyed St. Pierre, the former principal town of the island, and killed around 28,000 inhabitants, and the Great Hurri-cane of 1780 with a similar number of fatalities along the Antilles island arc were outstanding disasters in terms of magnitude. Moreover, the frequency during the 500 years of historical documentation is high as well.
However, history tells that the Caribbean is also prone to the risk of tsunamis. One hundred twenty-seven possible tsunamis were documented during the last 500 years, of which 53 were finally considered to be real tsunamis.

Tsunami hazard on Bonaire
Since we found geological traces of potential tsunamis at almost all sites investigated along the coast of Bonaire, we consider the entire coastline to be prone to tsunami hazard. Along the windward coast, the largest boulders point to the occurrence of tsunami wave heights in the order of 8-10 m. This height estimate is similar to tsunami wave heights observed at the Venezuelan coast in historical times, e.g. at Paria in 1530 or at Puerto Tuy in 1900 [5]. The minimum inundation of such a tsunami on the carbonate platform along the windward side would be 300 m, possibly even more than 500 m. However, findings of candidate tsunami deposits in the sediment cores of the bays, bokas and saliñas, such as Boka Bartol, Saliña Tam or Lagun far inland indicate that especially these low-lying areas provide pathways for inundation and destruction by a tsunami. Thus, a low topography, as found on the entire southern part of Bonaire, is more prone to tsunami inundation.

Date
2012
Data type
Other resources
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire

Potential and limits of combining studies of coarse- and fine-grained sediments for the coastal event history of a Caribbean carbonate environment

The coastal deposits of Bonaire, Leeward Antilles, are among the most studied archives for extreme-wave events (EWEs) in the Caribbean. Here we present more than 400 electron spin resonance (ESR) and radiocarbon data on coarse-clast deposits from Bonaire’s eastern and western coasts. The chronological data are compared to the occurrence and age of fine-grained extremewave deposits detected in lagoons and floodplains. Both approaches are aimed at the identification of EWEs, the differentiation between extraordinary storms and tsunamis, improving reconstructions of the coastal evolution, and establishing a geochronological framework for the events. Although the combination of different methods and archives contributes to a better understanding of the interplay of coastal and archive-related processes, insufficient separation, superimposition or burying of coarse-clast deposits and restricted dating accuracy limit the use of both fine grained and coarse-clast geoarchives to unravel decadal- to centennial-scale events. At several locations, distinct landforms are attributed to different coastal flooding events interpreted to be of tsunamigenic origin. Coastal landforms on the western coast have significantly been influenced by (sub)-recent hurricanes, indicating that formation of the coarse-clast deposits on the eastern coast is likely to be related to past events of higher energy.

 

Date
2013
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire

Coastal stratigraphies of eastern Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles): New insights into the palaeo-tsunami history of the southern Caribbean

Abstract:

A sediment record of three alluvial sites along the east- and northeast-oriented shore of Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles) provides evidence for the recurrence of several extraordinary wave impacts during the Holocene. The interpretation of onshore high-energy wave deposits is controversially discussed in recent sedimentary research. However, it represents a powerful tool to evaluate the hazard of tsunami and severe storms where historical documentation is short and/or fragmentary. A facies model was established based on sedimentary and geochemical characteristics as well as the assemblage and state of preservation of shells and shell fragments. Radiocarbon data and the comparison of the facies model with both recent local hurricane deposits and global “tsunami signature types” point to the occurrence of three major wave events around 3300, 2000–1700 and shortly before 500 BP. Since (i) the stratigraphically correlated sand layers fulfill several sedimentary characteristics commonly associated with tsunamis and (ii) modern strong hurricanes left only little or even no sediment in the study areas, they were interpreted as tsunamigenic. However, surges largely exceeding the energy of those accompanying modern hurricanes in the southern Caribbean cannot entirely be ruled out. The results are partially consistent with existing chronologies for Holocene extreme wave events deduced from supralittoral coarse-clast deposits on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao as well as overwash sediments from Cayo Sal, Venezuela. 

Date
2010
Data type
Scientific article
Theme
Research and monitoring
Geographic location
Bonaire