Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 164, Issue 2, pp 527-545

First online:

Volcanogenic Tsunamis in Lakes: Examples from Nicaragua and General Implications

  • Armin FreundtAffiliated with SFB 574 at Kiel UniversityIFM-GEOMAR
  • , Wilfried StrauchAffiliated withInstituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales, INETER
  • , Steffen KutterolfAffiliated with SFB 574 at Kiel University
  • , Hans-Ulrich SchminckeAffiliated with SFB 574 at Kiel UniversityIFM-GEOMAR

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This paper emphasizes the fact that tsunamis can occur in continental lakes and focuses on tsunami triggering by processes related to volcanic eruptions and instability of volcanic edifices. The two large lakes of Nicaragua, Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua, host a section of the Central American Volcanic Arc including several active volcanoes. One case of a tsunami in Lake Managua triggered by an explosive volcanic eruption is documented in the geologic record. However, a number of events occurred in the past at both lakes which were probably tsunamigenic. These include massive intrusion of pyroclastic flows from Apoyo volcano as well as of flank-collapse avalanches from Mombacho volcano into Lake Nicaragua. Maar-forming phreatomagmatic eruptions, which repeatedly occurred in Lake Managua, are highly explosive phenomena able to create hugh water waves as was observed elsewhere. The shallow water depth of the Nicaraguan lakes is discussed as the major limiting factor of tsunami amplitude and propagation speed. The very low-profile shores facilitate substantial in-land flooding even of relatively small waves. Implications for conceiving a possible warning system are also discussed.


Lake tsunami volcanogenic tsunami tsunami hazard Nicaraguan lakes