Sedimentary Deposits from the 17 July 2006 Western Java Tsunami, Indonesia: Use of Grain Size Analyses to Assess Tsunami Flow Depth, Speed, and Traction Carpet Characteristics

Andrew Moore, James Goff, Brian G. McAdoo, Hermann M. Fritz, Aditya Gusman, Nikos Kalligeris, Kenia Kalsum, Arif Susanto, Debora Suteja, Costas E. Synolakis

Pure and Applied Geophysics, November 2011, Volume 168, Issue 11, pp 1951-1961, DOI: 10.1007/s00024-011-0280-8


The 2006 western Java tsunami deposited a discontinuous sheet of sand up to 20 cm thick, flooded coastal southern Java to a depth of at least 8 m and inundated up to 1 km inland. In most places the primarily heavy mineral sand sheet is normally graded, and in some it contains complex internal stratigraphy. Structures within the sand sheet probably record the passage of up to two individual waves, a point noted in eyewitness accounts. We studied the 2006 tsunami deposits in detail along a flow parallel transect about 750 m long, 15 km east of Cilacap. The tsunami deposit first becomes discernable from the underlying sediment 70 m from the shoreline. From 75 to 300 m inland the deposit has been laid down in rice paddies, and maintains a thickness of 10–20 cm. Landward of 300 m the deposit thins dramatically, reaching 1 mm by 450 m inland. From 450 m to the edge of deposition (around 700 m inland) the deposit remains <1 mm thick. Deposition generally attended inundation—along the transect, the tsunami deposited sand to within about 40 m of the inundation limit. The thicker part of the deposit contains primarily sand indistinguishable from that found on the beach 3 weeks after the event, but after about 450 m (and roughly coinciding with the decrease in thickness) the tsunami sediment shifts to become more like the underlying paddy soil than the beach sand. Grain sizes within the deposit tend to fine upward and landward, although overall upward fining takes place in two discrete pulses, with an initial section of inverse grading followed by a section of normal grading. The two inversely graded sections are also density graded, with denser grains at the base, and less dense grains at the top. The two normally graded sections show no trends in density. The inversely graded sections show high density sediment to the base and become less dense upward and represents traction carpet flows at the base of the tsunami. These are suggestive of high shear rates in the flow. Because of the grain sorting in the traction carpet, the landward-fining trends usually seen in tsunami deposits are masked, although lateral changes of mean sediment grain size along the transect do show overall landward fining, with more variation as the deposit tapers off. The deposit is also thicker in the more seaward portions than would be produced by tsunamis lacking traction carpets.

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