, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 277-287

Landslide and Tsunami 21 November 2000 in Paatuut, West Greenland

Abstract

A large landslide occurred November 21, 2000 at Paatuut, facing the Vaigat Strait onthe west coast of Greenland. 90 million m3 (260 million tons) of mainly basalticmaterial slid very rapidly (average velocity 140 km/h) down from 1,000–1,400 maltitude. Approximately 30 million m3 (87 million tons) entered the sea, creatinga tsunami with an run-up height of 50 m close to the landslide and 28 m at Qullissat,an abandoned mining town opposite Paatuut across the 20 km wide Vaigat strait. Theevent was recorded seismically, allowing the duration of the slide to be estimated tocirca 80 s and also allowing an estimate of the surface-wave magnitude of the slideof 2.3. Terrain models based on stereographic photographs before and after the slidemade it possible to determine the amount of material removed, and the manner ofre-deposition. Simple calculations of the tsunami travel times are in good correspondencewith the reports from the closest populated village, Saqqaq, 40 km from Paatuut, whererefracted energy from the tsunami destroyed a number of boats. Landslides are notuncommon in the area, due to the geology with dense basaltic rocks overlying poorlyconsolidated sedimentary rocks, but the size of the Paatuut slide is unusual. Based onthe observations it is likely at least 500 years since an event with a tsunami of similarproportions occurred. The triggering of the Paatuut slide is interpreted to be caused byweather conditions in the days prior to the slide, where re-freezing melt water inpre-existing cracks could have caused failure of the steep mountain side.