Hazard potential of volcanic flank collapses raised by new megatsunami evidence

Ramalho, Ricardo S.; Winckler, Gisela; Madeira, José; Helffrich, George R.; Hipólito, Ana; Quartau, Rui; Adena, Katherine; Schaefer, Joerg M.

Large-scale gravitational flank collapses of steep volcanic islands are hypothetically capable of triggering megatsunamis with highly catastrophic effects. Yet, evidence for the generation and impact of collapse-triggered megatsunamis and their high run-ups remains scarce or is highly controversial. Therefore, doubts remain on whether island flank failures truly generate enough volume flux to trigger giant tsunamis, leading to diverging opinions concerning the real hazard potential of such collapses. We show that one of the most prominent oceanic volcanoes on Earth—Fogo, in the Cape Verde Islands—catastrophically collapsed and triggered a megatsunami with devastating effects ~73,000 years ago. Our deductions are based on the recent discovery and cosmogenic 3He dating of tsunamigenic deposits found on nearby Santiago Island, which attest to the impact of this giant tsunami and document wave run-up heights exceeding 270 m. The evidence reported here implies that Fogo’s flank failure involved at least one fast and voluminous event that led to a giant tsunami, in contrast to what has been suggested before. Our observations therefore further demonstrate that flank collapses may indeed catastrophically happen and are capable of triggering tsunamis of enormous height and energy, adding to their hazard potential.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Published Here
February 20, 2016