Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 176, Issue 7, pp 3059–3098 | Cite as

Landslide Tsunami Hazard Along the Upper US East Coast: Effects of Slide Deformation, Bottom Friction, and Frequency Dispersion

  • Lauren Schambach
  • Stephan T. GrilliEmail author
  • James T. Kirby
  • Fengyan Shi


Numerical simulations of Submarine Mass Failures (SMFs) are performed along the upper US East Coast to assess the effect of slide deformation on predicted tsunami hazard. Tsunami generation is simulated using the three-dimensional non-hydrostatic model NHWAVE. For rigid slumps, the geometry and law of motion are specified as bottom boundary conditions. Deforming slide motion is modeled using a depth-integrated bottom layer of dense Newtonian fluid, fully coupled to the overlying fluid motion. Once the SMFs are no-longer tsunamigenic, tsunami propagation simulations are performed using the Boussinesq wave model FUNWAVE-TVD, using nested grids of increasingly fine resolution towards shore and employing a one-way coupling methodology. Probable maximum tsunamis are simulated for Currituck SMF proxies sited in four areas of the shelf break slope that have enough sediment accumulation to cause large failures. Deforming slides have a slightly larger initial acceleration, but still generate a smaller tsunami than rigid slumps due to their spreading and thinning out during motion, which gradually makes them less tsunamigenic. Comparing the maximum envelope of surface elevations along a 5 m isobath, consistent with earlier work, the bathymetry of the wide shelf is found to strongly control the spatial distribution of tsunami inundation. Overall, tsunamis caused by rigid slumps are worst case scenarios, providing up to 50% more inundation than for deforming slides having a moderate level of viscosity set in the upper range of debris flows. Tsunamis from both types of SMFs are able to cause water withdrawal to the 5 m isobath or deeper. Bottom friction effects are assessed by performing some of the simulations using two different Manning coefficients, one 50% larger than the other. With increased bottom friction, the largest tsunami inundations at the coast are reduced by up to 15%. Selected simulations are rerun by turning off dispersion in the model, which leads to moderate changes in maximum surface elevations nearshore (− 10 to + 5% changes), but to more significant effects in the far field (− 40 to 80% changes). Onshore, dispersion causes the appearance of short period undular bores that eventually break nearshore without significantly affecting inundation at the coast. However, these bores increase wave-induced maximum flow velocity and impulse forces, the latter by up to 40%, which may affect the design of coastal structures.



This work was supported by the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP), NOAA, through Grants NA-15-NWS4670029 and NA-16-NWS4670034 to the University of Delaware (with subaward to the University of Rhode Island). Additional support at the University of Rhode Island and the University of Delaware came from Grants CMMI-15-35568 and CMMI-15-37568 from the Engineering for Natural Hazards Program, National Science Foundation, respectively. Numerical simulations reported in this work used HPC resources, as part of the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) (project BCS-170006), which is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant number ACI-1548562. FUNWAVE-TVD is open source software, available at NHWAVE is open source software, available at Finally, the authors acknowledge anonymous reviewers for their thorough and constructive reviews of this work.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ocean EngineeringUniversity of Rhode IslandNarragansettUSA
  2. 2.Center for Applied Coastal ResearchUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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