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Title: An 1888 volcanic collapse becomes a benchmark for tsunami models
Authors: Micallef, Aaron
Watt, Sebastian F. L.
Berndt, Christian
Urlaub, Morelia
Brune, Sascha
Klaucke, Ingo
Bottner, Christoph
Karstens, Jens
Elger, Judith
Keywords: Landslides -- Risk assessment
Volcanological research -- History -- 19th century
Tsunamis -- Research
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: American Geophysical Union
Citation: Micallef, A., Watt, S., Berndt, C., Urlaub, M., Brune, S., Klaucke, I., ... & Elger, J. (2017). An 1888 volcanic collapse becomes a benchmark for tsunami models. Eos, 48, 1-4.
Abstract: Early one March morning in 1888, a 4-cubic-kilometer chunk of the Ritter Island volcano collapsed into the Bismarck Sea northeast of New Guinea. This volume of land was about twice that of the Mount St. Helens landslide in 1980, and it is the largest historically recorded tsunami-causing volcanic sector collapse. The ensuing landslide triggered a tsunami tens of meters high. The waves were still 8 meters high when they reached parts of the island of New Guinea that are several hundreds of kilometers away, according to observers who witnessed the event. Volcanic islands are the source of some of the world’s largest landslides. These landslides have the potential to generate large tsunamis. Scientists have debated the magnitude of these tsunamis, but much uncertainty remains over landslide dynamics and how far a tsunami can travel across an ocean basin while remaining large enough to cause damage. Studies of Ritter Island’s landslide and ensuing tsunami could significantly reduce that uncertainty. During a 6-week-long expedition in November and December 2016 aboard the German R/V Sonne, we mapped the Ritter Island collapse scar and deposit using hull-mounted multibeam sonar systems, which produced high-resolution bathymetry (Figure 1) and acoustic backscatter data. We are using data from this expedition, alongside a range of direct observations and samples, to generate a detailed interpretation of the Ritter Island landslide. With these robust field data, we set the stage for testing coupled landslide-tsunami models.
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