Reconstruction of 1852 Banda Arc megathrust earthquake and tsunami


In 1852, a 5-min long earthquake struck the Banda Arc region of Indonesia that was felt over most of Indonesia. It caused uplift of new islands and sent a tsunami across the Banda Sea that reached a height of 8 m at Banda Neira and was also registered at Ambon, Saparua and other islands. Records of the 1852 earthquake at multiple locations provide the constraints needed to reconstruct the disastrous event through numerical modeling using Clawpack. Tsunami heights at various locations are the primary observations we use to test modeling results. The best fit models indicate that the earthquake was most likely a megathrust event along the Tanimbar Trough of >Mw 8.4. At least 10–15 m of elastic strain has accumulated along the Tanimbar Through since the 1852 event, which is enough to cause an earthquake of similar size to the one in 1852. However, 10 times more people in the region are exposed to tsunami hazards than in the past.

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This project was funded in part by National Science Foundation (Grant EAR 0948386) and the Department of Geological Science at Brigham Young University. We express appreciation to Breanyn MacInnes for valuable technical support and advice on the Clawpack software, and for revisions to the manuscript by Summer Rupper and Barry Bickmore. We also appreciate help from the local officials of the Banda Islands and Ambon for facilitating our field investigation.

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Correspondence to TszMan L. Fisher.

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Fisher, T.L., Harris, R.A. Reconstruction of 1852 Banda Arc megathrust earthquake and tsunami. Nat Hazards 83, 667–689 (2016).

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  • Megathrust earthquake
  • Tsunami modeling
  • Eastern Indonesia
  • Banda Arc
  • Tanimbar Trough
  • Historical earthquake