What is left after tsunami disasters? – a sedimentological perspective

Witold Szczuciński - Adam Mickiewicz University

During the two decades, tsunamis have appeared to be the most disastrous natural process worldwide. The dramatic, large tsunamis on Boxing Day, 2004 in the Indian Ocean and on March 11, 2011 offshore Japan caused catastrophes listed as the worst in terms of the number of victims and the economic losses, respectively. In the aftermath, they have become a topic of high public and scientific interest. The record of past tsunamis, mainly in form of tsunami deposits, is often the only way to identify tsunami risk at a particular coast due to the relatively low frequency of their occurrence. The identification of paleotsunami deposits is often difficult mainly because the tsunami deposits are represented by various sediment types, may be similar to storm deposits, or altered by post-depositional processes. There is no simple universal diagnostic set of criteria that can be applied to interpret tsunami deposits with certainty. Thus, there is a need to develop new methods, which would enhance the ’classical’, mainly sedimentological and stratigraphic approach. During the talk I would like to present the need for geological studies of tsunami deposits, the examples of tsunami deposits (mainly from my own studies of 2004 tsunami in Thailand, 2011 tsunami in Japan, 2000 tsunami in Greenland) and their postdepositional changes, as well as I am going to outline recent progress and application of new approaches (e.g. paleogenetics).