Mulltibeam Mapping Assess Tsunami Hazrds
UW alumni Megan Prescott teams with NOAA survey of east coast submarine canyons
Preliminary analysis of these new data reveal the presence of sharp, stepped erosional escarpments rimming the upper slope around each of the mapped canyons
The Deep-Water Mid-Atlantic Canyons Project mapping science party (left to right): Steve Ross, ...
Mid-Atlantic Canyons Mapping Team
By Jason Chaytor and Daniel Brothers
USGS Sound Waves, Monthly Newsletter
For the past 5 years, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists at the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, have been studying submarine canyons and landslides to assess the potential for landslide-generated tsunamis along the U.S. east coast. This study was requested and funded by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is concerned about the potential impact of tsunamis on new and existing nuclear power plants. Recent devastating tsunamis in Samoa (2009), Chile (2010), and Japan (2011) offer sober reminders of the importance of accurately identifying and characterizing the natural events, or "sources," that can generate tsunamis.
In a study funded by the NRC in 2009, the USGS identified submarine landslides along the submerged continental margin as the primary potential source of dangerous tsunamis to the U.S. east coast. Such landslides fall into two categories: (1) those that originate in submarine canyons and (2) those that originate on the continental slope and rise between submarine canyons ("open slope" landslides). Because submarine landslides and canyons are closely related, the USGS scientists studying these phenomena expect their data to shed light on such fundamental questions as "How do submarine canyons form?" as well as to provide vital information for assessing the risk posed by landslide-induced tsunamis.