Tsunami hazard assessment along the north shore of Hispaniola from far- and near-field Atlantic sources

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Since the devastating earthquake of 2010 in Haiti, significant efforts have been devoted to estimating future seismic and tsunami hazard in Hispaniola. In 2013, following a workshop of experts, UNESCO commissioned an initial modeling study to assess tsunami hazard, essentially from seismic sources, along the North shore of Hispaniola (NSOH), which is shared by the Republic of Haiti (RH) and the Dominican Republic (DR). The scope of this study included detailed tsunami inundation mapping for two selected critical sites, Cap Haitien in RH and Puerto Plata in DR. Results of this effort are reported here, and, although still limited in scope, they are within the framework and contribute to the advancement of the UNESCO IOC Tsunami and other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE EWS; von Hillebrandt-Andrade in Science 341:966–968, 2013). In similar work done for critical areas of the US east coast (under the auspice of the US National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program), the authors have modeled the most extreme far-field tsunami sources in the Atlantic Ocean basin, including: (1) a hypothetical Mw 9 seismic event in the Puerto Rico Trench (PRT); (2) a repeat of the historical 1755 Mw 9 earthquake in the Azores convergence zone (LSB); and (3) a hypothetical extreme 450km3 flank collapse of the Cumbre Vieja Volcano (CVV) in the Canary Archipelago. Here, tsunami hazard assessment is performed along the NSOH for these three sources, plus two additional near-field coseismic tsunami sources: (1) a Mw 8 earthquake in the western segments of the nearshore Septentrional fault (SF), as a repeat of the 1842 event; and (2) a Mw 8.7 earthquake occurring in selected segments of the North Hispaniola Thrust Fault (NHTF). Initial tsunami elevations are modeled based on each source’s parameters and propagated with FUNWAVE-TVD (a nonlinear and dispersive long-wave Boussinesq model) in a series of increasingly fine-resolution nested grids (from 1 arc-min to 205 m) using a one-way coupling methodology. For the two selected sites, coastal inundation is computed with TELEMAC (a Nonlinear Shallow Water wave model), in finer-resolution (12–30 m) unstructured nested grids. While for the EC, PRT is a far-field source, for RH and DR, this would be local source as some of the NSOH would be affected within 1 h or is within 200 km of the PRT. This is per definitions of UNESCO IOC. Regional goes from 200 to 1000 km and within 1 and 3 h, and distant is greater than 3 h and more than 1000 km. We find that among the far-field sources CVV causes the largest impact, with up to 20-m runup at the critical sites while PRT, which is a local source for the NSOH, only causes up to 4-m runup due to its directionality; PRT, however, has both a much shorter return period and would impact the NSOH within 30 min of the earthquake. Among near-field sources, the SF event, as could be expected from a strike-slip fault, only causes a small tsunami, but the NHTF event causes up to 12-m runup in the critical sites, with the tsunami arriving within minutes of the earthquake. Hence, the latter event can be considered as the “Probable Maximum Tsunami” (PMT; following, e.g., the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission terminology) for the NSOH. Results of detailed coastal modeling for this PMT can be used to develop maps of vulnerability for the critical sites and prepare for mitigating measures and evacuation; a few examples of such maps are given in the paper. Although a number of earlier studies have dealt with each of the far-field tsunami sources, the modeling of their impact on the NSOH and that of the near-field sources, presented here as part of a comprehensive tsunami hazard assessment study, are novel. Future work should model additional coastal sites and may consider effects of tsunamis generated by near-field submarine mass failures.

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Natural Hazards