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Source Characterization and Tsunami Modeling of Submarine Landslides Along the Yucatán Shelf/Campeche Escarpment, Southern Gulf of Mexico


Submarine landslides occurring along the margins of the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) represent a low-likelihood, but potentially damaging source of tsunamis. New multibeam bathymetry coverage reveals that mass wasting is pervasive along the Yucatán Shelf edge with several large composite landslides possibly removing as much as 70 km3 of the Cenozoic sedimentary section in a single event. Using GIS-based analysis, the dimensions of six landslides from the central and northern sections of the Yucatán Shelf/Campeche Escarpment were determined and used as input for preliminary tsunami generation and propagation models. Tsunami modeling is performed to compare the propagation characteristics and distribution of maximum amplitudes throughout the GOM among the different landslide scenarios. Various factors such as landslide geometry, location along the Yucatán Shelf/Campeche Escarpment, and refraction during propagation result in significant variations in the affected part of the Mexican and US Gulf Coasts. In all cases, however, tsunami amplitudes are greatest along the northern Yucatán Peninsula.

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We would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the captain and crew of the R/V Falkor, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Eve Lundsten, Krystle Anderson, and Brian Andrews. Nathan Miller, Uri ten Brink, David Tappin, and three anonymous reviewers provided helpful reviews which improved the manuscript. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

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Correspondence to Jason D. Chaytor.

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Chaytor, J.D., Geist, E.L., Paull, C.K. et al. Source Characterization and Tsunami Modeling of Submarine Landslides Along the Yucatán Shelf/Campeche Escarpment, Southern Gulf of Mexico. Pure Appl. Geophys. 173, 4101–4116 (2016).

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  • Tsunami Wave
  • Tsunami Hazard
  • Shelf Edge
  • Submarine Landslide
  • Tsunami Modeling