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Tsunami forcing by a low Froude number landslide


The waves generated by a submarine landslide, of great concern to coastal communities, exhibit strong dependence on the landslide motion along the sea floor. A series of two-dimensional physical experiments investigate the waves generated by a solid block landslide moving along a horizontal boundary, allowing measurement of both onshore- and offshore-propagating waves using the laser-induced fluorescence technique. This technique provides high-quality free surface measurements over the entire length of the experimental flume, and hence a data set that can be used to validate numerical models for this idealised scenario. The landslide motion is provided by a mechanical system, allowing testing of a range of landslide accelerations and terminal velocities. The landslide Froude number governs the overall behaviour of the wave field. At lower Froude numbers, the waves are almost entirely generated by the landslide acceleration and deceleration, and the offshore- and onshore-propagating wave groups contain approximately equal energy. Interactions between the landslide and the offshore-propagating waves become more important as the Froude number increases. Two inviscid-irrotational models demonstrate the importance of dispersive effects for tsunamis generated by a submarine landslide, and correctly predict the behaviour of the entire wave field at low Froude numbers. The predictions in the vicinity of the landslide worsen with increasing Froude number, due to the linear free surface conditions used by the models. Lower Froude numbers appear to be more representative of previous sloping-boundary experimental geometries, although rigid block landslides still represent an idealisation of a field scenario.

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The laboratory work in this project was conducted with the assistance of Ian Sheppard, Kevin Wines, Alan Stokes and Mike Weavers. The contributions of Sarah Delavan and Pedro Lee, as well as the comments of the two anonymous reviewers, are also appreciated.

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Correspondence to Colin Whittaker.

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Whittaker, C., Nokes, R. & Davidson, M. Tsunami forcing by a low Froude number landslide. Environ Fluid Mech 15, 1215–1239 (2015).

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  • Tsunami
  • Landslide
  • Laser-induced fluorescence (LIF)
  • Particle tracking velocimetry (PTV)
  • Inviscid-irrotational flow