Imprints of the AD 1755 Tsunami in Algarve (South Portugal) Lowlands and Post-impact Recovery

  • P. J. M. CostaEmail author
  • M. A. Oliveira
  • R. González-Villanueva
  • C. Andrade
  • M. C. Freitas
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 14)


The AD 1755 tsunami was the most devastating tsunami that affected Atlantic Europe in historical times. In this work we summarize its sedimentological signatures in lowlands (Martinhal, Barranco, Furnas, Boca do Rio, Salgados-Alcantarilha) of the Algarve coast that contrast in geologic and geomorphological settings and sediment abundance. We found remarkable similarities between tsunami deposits and the materials available for transport at the coast prior to the tsunami. A number of 2–4 m high and 30–70 m wide scarps (i.e. steep slopes in dunes resulting from erosion) are the only erosive geomorphic signature preserved in the study areas (Boca do Rio and Salgados-Alcantarilha). Recovery of the coastal system to pre-event conditions, inferred from the documentary records, is evaluated and analyzed in terms of sediment availability and supply, climate, hydrodynamic regime and geomorphic setting. Sediment-starved pocket beaches bypassed landward most of the sediment previously accumulated in the coastal system, failing to recover the pre-event morphology. Moreover, and solely in Martinhal, the abrupt morphological changes translated in increased and lasting permeability of the barrier and adjacent wetland to storms. The Alcantarilha-Salgados beach-dune system, in moderate sand supply, was extensively scarped but not fully overtopped. Here, recovery was partly achieved by destabilization of the remnant dune, formation and (limited) advance of parabolic dunes following the 1755 event. A schematic conceptual model is presented summarizing: the pre-event conditions; the depositional and geomorphological features directly related with the tsunami impact; and the post-event geomorphological adaptation. In the studied cases post-event recovery seems to be reduced mainly due to a conjugation of pre-event geomorphological setting and low sediment input.

The need to conduct further studies in the impacts of palaeotsunamis is evidenced here, especially because older events allow a large time window to observe post-tsunami adaptation.


Geomorphology Tsunami deposit Sand barrier Erosional features Recovery 



MA Oliveira and PJM Costa benefited from FCT (Portuguese Science Foundation) PhD and Post-Doc Scholarships. R. González-Villanueva benefited from an IDL Post-Doc Fellowship and Xunta de Galicia (PlanI2C-ED481B 2014/132-0) Post-Doc Fellowship.


  1. Andrade C (1990) O ambiente de barreira da Ria Formosa (Algarve, Portugal). PhD dissertation. University of Lisbon, Portugal, 645 ppGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrade C (1992) Tsunami generated forms in the Algarve barrier islands (South Portugal). Sci Tsunami Haz 10:21–34Google Scholar
  3. Andrade C, Andrade AM, Kortekaas S, Dawson A (1997) Sedimentological traces of tsunamigenic overwash of the Martinhal lowland (Western Algarve – Portugal). In: Proceedings Seminar Zona Costeira do Algarve, Faro, 10–12 July 1997, Eurocoast-Portugal, pp 11–18Google Scholar
  4. Atwater BF (1987) Evidence for great Holocene earthquakes along the Outer Coast of Washington State. Science 236:942–944CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Atwater BF, Cisternas M, Yulianto E, Prendergast AL, Jankaew K, Eipert AA, Fernando WIS, Tejakusuma I, Schiappacasse I, Sawai Y (2013) The 1960 tsunami on beach-ridge plains near Maullín, Chile: landward descent, renewed breaches, aggraded fans, multiple predecessors. Andean Geol 40:393–418Google Scholar
  6. Atwater BF, Fuentes Z, Halley RB, Ten Brink US, Tuttle MP (2014) Effects of 2010 Hurricane Earl amidst geologic evidence for greater overwash at Anegada, British Virgin Islands. Adv Geosci 38:21–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bahlburg H, Spiske M (2011) Sedimentology of tsunami inflow and backflow deposits: key differences revealed in a modern example. Sedimentology 59:1063–1086CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baptista MA, Miranda JM (2009) Revision of the Portuguese catalog of tsunamis. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 9:25–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Catalán PA, Cienfuegos R, Villagrán M (2014) Perspectives on the long-term equilibrium of a wave dominated coastal zone affected by tsunamis: the case of Central Chile. J Coast Res 71:55–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chagué-Goff C, Schneider JL, Goff JR, Dominey-Howes D, 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 Sci Rev 107:107–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Costa PJM, Andrade C, Freitas MC, Oliveira MA, da Silva CM, Omira R, Taborda R, Baptista MA, Dawson AG (2011) Boulder deposition during major tsunami events. Earth Surf Process Landf 36:2054–2068CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Costa PJM, Andrade C, Freitas MC, Oliveira MA, Lopes V, Dawson AG, Moreno J, Fatela F, Jouanneau J-M (2012a) A tsunami record in the sedimentary archive of the central Algarve coast, Portugal: characterizing sediment, reconstructing sources and inundation paths. The Holocene 22(8):899–914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Costa PJM, Andrade C, Dawson AG, Mahaney WC, Paris R, Freitas MC, Taborda R (2012b) Microtextural characteristics of quartz grains transported and deposited by tsunamis and storms. Sediment Geol 275–276:55–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dawson AG (1994) Geomorphological effects of tsunami run-up and backwash. Geomorphology 10:83–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dawson AG, Stewart I (2007) Tsunami deposits in the geological record. Sediment Geol 200:166–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dawson AG, Long D, Smith DES (1988) The Storegga slides: evidence from eastern Scotland for a possible tsunami. Mar Geol 82:271–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dawson AG, Hindson R, Andrade C, Freitas C, Parish R, Bateman M (1995) Tsunami sedimentation associated with the Lisbon earthquake of 1 November AD 1755: Boca do Rio, Algarve, Portugal. The Holocene 5(2):209–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dinis J, Andrade C, Oliveira MA, Freitas MC, Cunha PP, Martins A, Costa P (2010) Geomorphological constraining of tsunami (?) run-up in the Alcantarilha coastal lowland (central Algarve, Portugal). In: Proceedings Iberian coastal holocene paleoenvironmental evolution ‘Coastal Hope 2010’, Lisbon, pp 40–41Google Scholar
  19. Goff JR (2008) The New Zealand Palaeotsunami database. NIWA technical report 131, ISSN 1174–2631, 24 pp + AppendixGoogle Scholar
  20. Goff J, Lane E, Arnold J (2009) The tsunami geomorphology of coastal dunes. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 9(3):847–854CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hindson RA, Andrade C (1999) Sedimentation and hydrodynamic processes associated with the tsunami generated by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Quat Int 56:27–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hindson RA, Andrade C, Dawson AG (1996) Sedimentary processes associated with the tsunami generated by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake on the Algarve coast, Portugal. Phys Chem Earth 21:57–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hindson R, Andrade C, Parish R (1999) A microfaunal and sedimentary record of environmental change within the late Holocene sediments of Boca do Rio (Algarve, Portugal). Geol Mijnb 77:311–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kain CL, Gomez C, Hart DE, Wassmer P, Goff J, Starheim C (2014) Assessing topographic controls on flow direction in washover deposits using measurements of magnetic fabric. Mar Geol 350:16–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kortekaas S (2002) Tsunamis, storms and earthquakes: distinguishing coastal flooding events. Coventry, PhD dissertation. Coventry University, United Kingdom, 171 ppGoogle Scholar
  26. Kortekaas S, Dawson AG (2007) Distinguishing tsunami and storm deposits: an example from Martinhal, SW Portugal. Sediment Geol 200(3–4):208–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lopes JBS (1841) Corografia ou Memória Económica, Estatística e Topográfica do Reino do Algarve. Academia R. das Sciencias de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal, 528 pp (in Portuguese)Google Scholar
  28. Oliveira MA (2009) Influência da geomorfologia local na preservação de assinaturas sedimentares de eventos de alta energia no Algarve ocidental. MSc dissertation, University of Lisbon, Portugal, 178 ppGoogle Scholar
  29. Oliveira MA, Andrade C, Freitas MC, Costa PJ (2009) Modeling volume transfer between beach-foredune and the backshore by the 1755 Lisbon tsunami at Boca do Rio lowland, Algarve (Portugal). J Coast Res SI56(2):1547–1551Google Scholar
  30. Paris R, Wassmer P, Sartohadi J, Lavigne F, Barthomeuf B, Desgages E, Grancher D, Baumert P, Vautier F, Brunstein D, Gomez CH (2009) Tsunamis as geomorphic crises: lessons from the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Lhok Nga, West Banda Aceh (Sumatra, Indonesia). Geomorphology 104:59–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pires HO (1985) Alguns aspectos do clima de agitação marítima de interesse para a navegação na costa de Portugal. Instituto Nacional de Metereologia e Geofísica, Lisboa, Portugal, 30pp (in Portuguese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. J. M. Costa
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. A. Oliveira
    • 1
  • R. González-Villanueva
    • 2
  • C. Andrade
    • 1
  • M. C. Freitas
    • 1
  1. 1.IDL and Departamento de GeologiaFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Dpto. Xeociencias Mariñas e O.T. (XM-1)Facultade de Ciencias do Mar Universidade de VigoVigoSpain

Personalised recommendations