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Historical and pre-historical tsunamis in the Mediterranean and its connected seas: Geological signatures, generation mechanisms and coastal impacts

2014-08-01
Papadopoulos, Gerassimos A.
Gracia, Eulalia
Urgeles, Roger
Sallares, Valenti
De Martini, Paolo Marco
Pantosti, Daniela
Gonzalez, Mauricio
Yalçıner, Ahmet Cevdet
Mascle, Jean
Sakellariou, Dimitris
Salamon, Amos
Tinti, Stefano
Karastathis, Vassilis
Fokaefs, Anna
Camerlenghi, Angelo
Novikova, Tatyana
Papageorgiou, Antonia
The origin of tsunamis in the Mediterranean region and its connected seas, including the Marmara Sea, the Black Sea and the SW Iberian Margin in the NE Atlantic Ocean, is reviewed within the geological and seismotectonic settings of the region. A variety of historical documentary sources combined with evidence from onshore and offshore geological signatures, geomorphological imprints, observations from selected coastal archeological sites, as well as instrumental records, eyewitnesses accounts and pictorial material, clearly indicate that tsunami sources both seismic and non-seismic (e.g. volcanism, landslides) can be found in all the seas of the region with a variable tsunamigenic potential. Local, regional and basin-wide tsunamis have been documented. An improved map of 22 main tsunamigenic zones and their relative potential for tsunami generation is presented. From west to east, the most important tsunamigenic zones are situated offshore SW Iberia, in the North Algerian margin, in the Tyrrhenian Calabria and Messina Straits, in the western and eastern segments of the Hellenic Arc, in the Corinth Gulf of Central Greece, in the Levantine Sea offshore the Dead Sea Transform Fault and in the eastern side of the Marmara Sea. Important historical examples, including destructive tsunamis associated with large earthquakes, are presented. The mean recurrence of strong tsunamis in the several basins varies greatly but the highest event frequency (1/96 years) is observed in the east Mediterranean basin. For most of the historical events it is still unclear which was the causative seismic source and if the tsunami was caused by co-seismic slip, by earthquake-triggered submarine landslides or by a combination of both mechanisms. In pre-historical times, submarine volcanic eruptions (i.e. caldera collapse, massive pyroclastic flows, volcanogenic landslides) and large submarine landslides caused important tsunamis although little is known about their source mechanisms. We conclude that further investigation of the tsunami generation mechanisms is of primary importance in the Mediterranean region. Inputs from tsunami numerical modeling as well as from empirical discrimination criteria for characterizing tsunami sources have been proved particularly effective for recent, well-documented, aseismic landslide tsunamis (e.g., 1963 Corinth Gulf, 1979 Cote d'Azur, 1999 Izmit Bay, 2002 Stromboli volcano). Since the tsunami generation mechanisms are controlled by a variety of factors, and given that the knowledge of past tsunami activity is the cornerstone for undertaking tsunami risk mitigation action, future interdisciplinary research efforts on past tsunamis are needed. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.