, Volume 165, Issue 11-12, pp 2019-2044

Numerical Modeling and Observations of Tsunami Waves in Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound, British Columbia

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Abstract

Alberni Inlet is a long and narrow fjord adjacent to Barkley Sound on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Port Alberni, at the head of the inlet, was affected in 1964 by the largest Pacific tsunami waves in Canadian history. We use observations and results from two numerical models to investigate the resonant characteristics of the region and amplification of tsunami waves in Barkley Sound and Alberni Inlet. The first model (A) was forced at its open boundary with a stationary autoregressive signal, similar to the observed background noise. The second model (B) used an initial sea-level deformation from a potential earthquake off California in the southern segment of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, producing transient tsunami waves. Spectral, cross-spectral and frequency-time (f-t) analyses of the observations were used to examine the resonant properties and topographic response of the local area. The respective results show large admittance functions over a wide 0.5–0.9 cph frequency band, implying a low Q factor but high amplification of arriving waves. This unusual behavior is a result of two effects: A quarter-wave resonance of the system for its fundamental Helmholtz mode and amplification due to the narrowing of the channel cross section from Barkley Sound to Alberni Inlet. The model A numerical results agree favorably with the observations, indicating an energetic resonant mode at frequency of ~0.53 cph (112 min), with its nodal line located near the entrance to Barkley Sound and amplification factor value close to 12. The results from the tsunami propagation model (B) yield spectral characteristics similar to those from the model A and from the observations. The maximum tsunami current speed for this scenario is 2.4 ms−1 in Sproat Narrows, which divides Alberni Inlet into two parts, while the largest computed wave height is 1.6 m in the northern Alberni Inlet, in the area of Port Alberni.