Modeling coastal tsunami hazard from submarine mass failures: effect of slide rheology, experimental validation, and case studies off the US East Coast

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We perform numerical simulations to assess how coastal tsunami hazard from submarine mass failures (SMFs) is affected by slide kinematics and rheology. Two types of two-layer SMF tsunami generation models are used, in which the bottom (slide) layer is depth-integrated and represented by either a dense Newtonian fluid or a granular flow, in which inter-granular stresses are governed by Coulomb friction (Savage and Hutter model). In both cases, the upper (water) layer flow is simulated with the non-hydrostatic 3D σ-layer model NHWAVE. Both models are validated by simulating laboratory experiments for SMFs made of glass beads moving down a steep plane slope. In those, we assess the convergence of results (i.e., SMF motion and surface wave generation) with model parameters and their sensitivity to slide parameters (i.e., viscosity, bottom friction, and initial submergence). The historical Currituck SMF is simulated with the viscous slide model, to estimate relevant parameters for simulating tsunami generation from a possible SMF sited near the Hudson River Canyon. Compared to a rigid slump, we find that deforming SMFs of various rheology, despite having a slightly larger initial acceleration, generate a smaller tsunami due to their spreading and thinning out during motion, which gradually makes them less tsunamigenic; the latter behavior is controlled by slide rheology. Coastal tsunami hazard is finally assessed by performing tsunami simulations with the Boussinesq long wave model FUNWAVE-TVD, initialized by SMF tsunami sources, in nested grids of increasing resolution. While initial tsunami elevations are very large (up to 25 m for the rigid slump), nearshore tsunami elevations are significantly reduced in all cases (to a maximum of 6.5 m). However, at most nearshore locations, surface elevations obtained assuming a rigid slump are up to a factor of 2 larger than those obtained for deforming slides. We conclude that modeling SMFs as rigid slumps provides a conservative estimate of coastal tsunami hazard while using a more realistic rheology, in general, reduces coastal tsunami impact.

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Natural Hazards