Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 171, Issue 12, pp 3307–3328 | Cite as

The Tohoku Tsunami of 11 March 2011: The Key Event to Understanding Tsunami Sedimentation on the Coasts of Closed Bays of the Lesser Kuril Islands

  • N. G. RazjigaevaEmail author
  • L. A. Ganzey
  • T. A. Grebennikova
  • E. D. Ivanova
  • A. A. Kharlamov
  • V. M. Kaistrenko
  • Kh. A. Arslanov
  • S. B. Chernov


The Tohoku tsunami of 11 March 2011 manifested in the region of the South Kuril Islands, although, as a rule, the run-up heights in this region did not exceed 3 m. In closed bays that were covered with ice before the tsunami, the eroding capacity of tsunami waves was aggravated by the ice fragments they carried. Here, mud sheets formed, reaching up to 106 m inland. The 2012 studies have shown well-preserved tsunami deposits, evident 1.5 years after the event. A comparative analysis of tsunami deposits from the periphery and from the near-field area close to the tsunami source was performed; this was important for understanding the deposition mechanism during the event, as it had different strengths on different shores. The difference in run-up heights determined the considerable differences in erosion, sedimentation, distribution of tsunami deposits, the formation of sedimentary structures, grain-size composition, and diatom and foraminifera assemblages. The sources of the material also varied significantly from each other: the material came from offshore in closed bays located in the tsunami source periphery, while in the near-field region close to the epicenter, the most active erosion occurred in the inundation area. In the latter area, the main sources of sand were beaches and dunes, while soil erosion was the source of mud. Studies of the Tohoku tsunami on the coasts of the Lesser Kuril Islands demonstrated that mud layers in the sections of coastal lowlands in closed bays could contain preserved detailed geological records of paleotsunamis, even those with a small-height run-up. In the sections of coastal peatlands of closed bays on Shikotan Island, up to 7–9 layers of mud and silty sands were found, these can easily be traced for more than 500 m inland. The grain-size composition of the mud is similar to the deposits of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami. The marine origin of these deposits is confirmed by the diatom analysis data.


2011 Tohoku tsunami deposits mud grain size diatoms foraminifera lesser Kuril Islands Pacific Ocean 



The authors are thankful to V.N. Boyko, Director of the “Kurilsky” Natural Reserve, for his help in the fieldwork organization. We gratefully acknowledge the contribution from the researchers of the Reserve, I.A. Nevedomskaya, A.G. Savchenko, S.E. Karpenko, and Yu.V. Sinkevich, who sampled the tsunami deposits from the ice floes immediately after the tsunami passage. The work was performed with the financial support of RFBR, grants No. 11-05-00497, 12-05-00757 and FEB RAS grant 12-I-P4-06; the expedition was supported by RFBR grant 11-05-10027-к, 12-05-10021. We express our sincere gratitude to Mrs. Florence Haiber (New York, USA), who revised the English version. We are very thankful to Fred Stephenson (IOS, Sidney, BC, Canada) for editing the English text. The authors would like to thank Prof. Yuichi Nishimura (Institute of Seismology and Volcanology, Graduate School of Science, Hokkaido University, Japan) and two anonymous reviewers for constructive criticism and productive comments that significantly improved the quality of the paper.


  1. Abe, T., Goto, K., and Sugawara, D. (2012), Relationship between the maximum extent of tsunami sand and the inundation limit of the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami on the Sendai Plain, Japan, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 142–150.Google Scholar
  2. Atlas of the Kuril Islands. (2009), (Design–Information-Cartography, Moscow-Vladivostok).Google Scholar
  3. Atwater, B.F. (1987), Evidence for great Holocene earthquakes along the outer coast of Washington State, Science, 236, 942–944.Google Scholar
  4. Blott, S.J. and Pye, K. (2001), GRADISTAT: a grain size distribution and statistics package for the analysis of unconsolidated deposits, Earth Surface and Landforms, 26, 1237–1248.Google Scholar
  5. Chagué-Goff, C., Schneider, J.-L., Goff, J.R., Dominey-Howes, D., and Strotz, L. (2011), Expanding the proxy toolkit to help identify past events: lessons from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the 2009 South Pacific Tsunami, Earth-Science Reviews, 107, 107–122.Google Scholar
  6. Chagué-Goff, C., Niedzielski, P., Wong, H.K.Y., Szczuciński, W., Sugawara, D., and Goff, J. (2012), Environmental impact assessment of the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami on the Sendai Plain, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 175–187.Google Scholar
  7. Dawson, A.G. and Shi, S. (2000), Tsunami deposits, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 157, 875–897.Google Scholar
  8. Foraminifera of Far Eastern Seas of the USSR. (1979), (Nauka, Novosibirsk).Google Scholar
  9. Furukawa, R., Nakagawa, M. (2010), Geological map of Tarumae Volcano 1:30,000. Geological Map of Volcanoes 15. Geological Survey of Japan, AIST.Google Scholar
  10. Goto, K., Chagué-Goff, C., Fujino, S., Goff, J., Jaffe B., Nishimura, Y., Richmond, B., Sugawara, D., Szczucinski, W., Tappin, D.R., Witter, R.C. and Yulianto, E. (2011), New insights of tsunami hazard from the 2011 Tohoku-oki event. Marine Geology. 290, 46–50.Google Scholar
  11. Goto, K., Sugawara, D., Ikema, S., and Miyagi, T. (2012), Sedimentary processes associated with sand and boulder deposits formed by the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami at Sabusawa Island, Japan, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 188–198.Google Scholar
  12. Inui, T., Yasutaka, T., Endo, K., and Katsumi, T. (2012), Geo-environmental issues induced by the 2011 off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami, Soil and Foundations, 52(5): 856–871.Google Scholar
  13. Ivanov, V.V. (1997), The investigation of tsunami action on sedimentation by using the traces of October 4, 1994 tsunami, In Geodynamics of the Tectonosphere of the Zone of Junction between the Pacific Ocean and Eurasia, v. VIII, (ed. Segreev, K.F.), IMGG FEB RAS, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 1997, pp. 119–128.Google Scholar
  14. Ivashchenko, A.I., Gusiakov, V.K., Dzhumagaliev, V.A., Yeh, G., Zhukova L.D., Zolotukhina, N.D., Kaistrenko, V.M., Kato, L.N., Klochkov, A.A., Korolev, Yu.P., Kruglyakov, A.A., Kulikov, E.A., Kurakin, V.N., Levin, B.V., Pelinovsky, E.N., Poplavsky, A.A., Titov, V.V., Kharlamov, A.A., Khramushin, V.N., and Shelting, E.V. (1996), The Shikotan Tsunami of October 5, 1994, Doklady Earth Sciences. 348(4), 693–699.Google Scholar
  15. Jagodziński, R., Sternal, B., Szczuciński, W., Chagué-Goff, C., and Sugawara, D. (2012), Heavy minerals in the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami depositsinsights into sediment sources and hydrodynamics, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 57–64.Google Scholar
  16. Kaistrenko, V.M., Shevchenko, G.V., and Ivelskaya, T.N. (2011), Manifestation of the Tohoku Tsunami of 11 March, 2011 on the Russian Pacific ocean coast, Questions of Engineering Seismology, 38(1), 41–64.Google Scholar
  17. Kaistrenko, V., Razjigaeva, N., Kharlamov, A., and Shishkin, A. (2013), Manifestation of the 2011 Great Tohoku tsunami on the coast the Kuril Island: A Tsunami with Ice, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 170, 1103–1114.Google Scholar
  18. Kaistrenko, V. M., Gusyakov, V. K., Dzhumagaliev, V. A., Dykhan, G.S., Ivashchenko, A.I., Yeh, G., Kato, L.N., Klochkov, A.A., Pelinovsky, E.N., Predtechensky, G.S., Sasorova, E.V., Titov, V.V., Kharlamov, A.A. and Shelting, E.V. (1997), Manifestation of the Tsunami on October 4, 1994 on Shikotan. Manifestations of Selected Tsunamis.Tsunamis of 1993 and 1994 on the Coasts of Russia, In Geodynamics of the Tectonosphere of the Zone of Junction between the Pacific Ocean and Eurasia, v. VIII, (ed. Segreev, K.F.), IMGG FEB RAS, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, 1997, pp. 55–73.Google Scholar
  19. Krammer, K. and Lange-Bertalot, H. (1988), Süßwasserflora von Mitteleuropa. Bacillariophyceae, Epithemiaceae, Surirellaceae. VEB Gustav Fisher Verlag, Jena, 596 p.Google Scholar
  20. MacInnes, B.T., Pinegina, T.K., Bourgeois, J., Razhegaeva, N.G., Kaistrenko, V.M. and Kravchunovskaya, E.A. (2009), Field survey and geological effects of the 15 November 2006 Kuril tsunami in the middle Kuril Islands, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 166(1–2): 3–36.Google Scholar
  21. Minoura, K., and Nakata, T. (1994), Discovery of an ancient tsunami deposit in coastal sequences of southwest Japan: verification of a large historical tsunami, Island Arc, 3, 66–72.Google Scholar
  22. Minoura, K., Gusiakov, V.G., Kurbatov, A., Takeuti, S., Svendsen, J.I., Bondevik, S., and Oda, T. (1996), Tsunami sedimentation associated with the 1923 Kamchatka earthquake, Sedimentary Geology, 106, 145–154.Google Scholar
  23. Mori, N., Takahashi, T., Yasuda, T., and Yanagisawa, H. (2011), Survey of 2011 Tohoku earthquake tsunami inundation and runup, Geophysical Research Letters, 38(7), L00G14, doi: 10.1029/2011GL049210, 2011.
  24. Nakamura, Y., Nishimura, Y., and Putra, P.S. (2012), Local variation of inundation, sedimentary characteristics, and mineral assemblages of the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami on the Misawa coast, Aomori, Japan, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 216–227.Google Scholar
  25. Nanayama, F., Satake, K., Furukawa, R., Shimokawa, K., Atwater, B.F., Shigeno, K., and Yamaki, S. (2003), Unusually large earthquakes inferred from tsunami deposits along the Kurile trench, Nature, 424, 660–663.Google Scholar
  26. Nanayama, F., Furukawa, R., Shigeno, K., Makino, A., Soeda, Y., and Igarashi, Y. (2007), Nine unusually large tsunami deposits from the past 4000 years at Kiritappu march along the southern Kuril Trench, Sedimentary Geology, 200, 275–294.Google Scholar
  27. Naruse, H., Arai, K., Matsumoto, D., Takahashi, H., Yamashita, S., Tanaka, G., and Murayama, M. (2012), Sedimentary features observed in the tsunami deposits at Rikuzentakata City, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 199–215.Google Scholar
  28. Nishimura, Y., Nakamura, Y., Kaistrenko, V.M., and Iliev, A. Ya (2009), Tsunami deposits and tephras on Kunashir and Shikotan Islands, Southern Kurile Islands, Chikyu monthly, 31(6), 311–320.Google Scholar
  29. Pilarczyk, J.E., Horton, B.P., Witter, R.C., Vane, C.H., Chagué-Goff, C., and Goff, J. (2012), Sedimentary and foraminiferal evidence of the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami on the Sendai coastal plain, Japan, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 78–89.Google Scholar
  30. Pinegina, T.K., and Bourgeois, J. (2001), Historical and paleo-tsunami deposits on Kamchatka, Russia: long-tern chronologies and long-distance correlations, Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 1, 177–185.Google Scholar
  31. Preobrazhenskaya, T.V. and Troitskaya, T.C. (1996), Foraminifera of Far East Seas. Part 1. Foraminifera of littoral of Lesser Kurile Arc. (Dalnauka, Vladivostok 1996).Google Scholar
  32. Razjigaeva, N.G., Ganzey, L.A., Grebennikova, T.A., Ivanova, E.D., Kharlamov A.A., Kaistrenko, V.M., and Shishkin, A.A. (2013), Coastal sedimentation associated with the Tohoku tsunami of 11 March 2011 in South Kuril Islands, NW Pacific Ocean, Pure and Applied Geophysics, 170, 1081–1102.Google Scholar
  33. Razzhigaeva, N.G., Ganzei, L.A., Grebennikova, T.A., Ivanova, E.D. and Kaistrenko, V.M. (2006), Sedimentation Particularities during the tsunami of December, 26, 2004, in Northern Indonesia Simelue Island and the Medan coast of Sumatra Island, Oceanology, 46(6), 875–890.Google Scholar
  34. Razzhigaeva, N.G., Ganzey, L.A., Grebennikova, T.A., Kharlamov, A.A., Ilev, A.Ya. and Kaistrenko V.M. (2007), Deposits of Shikotan earthquake 1994 tsunami, Oceanology, 47(4), 579–587.Google Scholar
  35. Razzhigaeva N.G., Ganzey, L.A., Grebennikova, T.A., Kharlamov, A.A., Ilyev, A.Ya., Kaistrenko V.M. (2008a), Geological record of paleotsumani Striking Shikotan Island, in the Lesser Kurils during Holocene time, Journal of Volcanology and Seismology, 2(4), 262–277.Google Scholar
  36. Razzhigaeva N.G., Ganzey, L.A., Belyanina, N.I., Grebennikova, T.A., Ganzey, K.S., (2008b) Paleo-environments and Landscape History of Minor Kuril Islands since Late Glacial, Quaternary International, 179. 83–89.Google Scholar
  37. Razzhigaeva, N.G., Ganzei, L.A., Grebennikova, T.A., Kharlamov, A.A., Kaistrenko, V.M., Arslanov, Kh.A., and Gorbunov, A.O. (2012), Manifestation of Holocene Tsunamis on the Lesser Kuril Ridge, Russian Journal of Pacific Geology, 6(6), 448–456.Google Scholar
  38. Richmond, B. Szczuciński, W., Chagué-Goff, C., Goto, K., Sugawara, D., Witter, R., Tappin, D.R., Jaffe, B., Fujino, S., Nishimura, Y., and Goff, J. (2012), Erosion, deposition and landscape change on the Sendai coastal plain, Japan, resulting from the March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 27–39.Google Scholar
  39. Sawai, Y., Jankaew, K., Martin M.E., Prednergast, A., Choowong, M., and Chatoentitirat, T. (2009), Diatom assemblages in tsunami deposits associated with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at Phra Thong Island, Thailand. Marine Micropaleontology, 73, 70–79.Google Scholar
  40. Sen Gupta, B.K. (2002). Foraminifera in marginal marine environments, In Modern Foraminifera, (ed. Barun K. and Sen Gupta B.K.), Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dortrecht 2002, pp. 141–160.Google Scholar
  41. Shevchenko, G., Ivelskaya, T., and Loskutov, A. (2014), Characteristics of the 2011 Great Tohoku Tsunami on the Russian Far East Coast: Deep-water and coastal observations, Pure Appl. Geophys., 171 (this volume).Google Scholar
  42. Szczuciński, W., Kokociński, M., Rzeszewski, M., Chagué-Goff, C., Cachгo, M., Goto, K., and Sugawara, D. (2012), Sediment sources and sedimentation processes of 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami deposits on the Sendai Plain, JapanInsights from diatoms, nannoliths and grain size distribution, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 40–56.Google Scholar
  43. Takashimizu, Y., Urabe, A., Suzuki, K., and Sato, Y. (2012), Deposition by the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami on coastal lowland controlled by beach ridges near Sendai, Japan Original Research Article, Sedimentary Geology, 282, 124–141.Google Scholar
  44. The diatoms of the USSR. (1974), Fossil and recent (Nauka, Leningrad).Google Scholar
  45. The diatoms of the USSR. (1992), Fossil and modern (Nauka, Leningrad).Google Scholar
  46. Yeh, H., Titov, V., Gusiakov, V., Pelinovsky, E., Khramushin, V., and Kaistrenko, V. (1995). The 1994 Shikotan earthquake tsunamis, Pure Appl. Geophys. 144(3–4), 855–874.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. G. Razjigaeva
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. A. Ganzey
    • 1
  • T. A. Grebennikova
    • 1
  • E. D. Ivanova
    • 1
  • A. A. Kharlamov
    • 2
  • V. M. Kaistrenko
    • 3
  • Kh. A. Arslanov
    • 4
  • S. B. Chernov
    • 4
  1. 1.Pacific Geographical Institute, FEB RASVladivostokRussia
  2. 2.P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, RASMoscowRussia
  3. 3.Institute of Marine Geology and Geophysics, FEB RASYuzhno-SakhalinskRussia
  4. 4.Department of Geography and GeoecologySt. Petersburg State UniversitySt. PetersburgRussia

Personalised recommendations