Articles | Volume 1, issue 4
Special issue:
31 Dec 2001
31 Dec 2001

Impact of historical tsunamis on a sandy coastal barrier: an example from the northern Gargano coast, southern Italy

F. Gianfreda, G. Mastronuzzi, and P. Sansò

Abstract. The Lesina coastal barrier is characterized by the presence of three wide washover fans. They were formed by three distinct tsunamis which struck the northern coast of the Gargano Promontory (Apulia, Italy) during historical times. A model for their formation is presented. It takes into account the geomorphological data collected and some reports about the effect of recent tsunamis on coastal barriers and beaches. Washover fans were produced by tsunami waves which ran through coseismic cracks developed on dune ridges shaping a narrow, straight and relatively deep trench which constitutes the fan throat. Moreover, each tsunami event most likely caused severe erosion of the coastal barrier, shaping erosive grooves across the dune ridges, causing beach cliffs and causing the nourishment of submarine offshore bars. After the tsunami, a phase of coastal barrier recovery began, forming new dune ridges and closing washover fan throats. Morphological, archeological and radiometric data indicate a pre-Roman age for the oldest event, which was dated at 2430 years BP. The second tsunami struck the Lesina coastal barrier with similar magnitude 1550 years BP; it was caused by the strong earthquake that occurred at Gargano Promontory in the year 493 AD as reported by a medieval sacred legend. The smallest and more recent fan formed following the tsunami that hit the northern coast of Gargano on 30 July 1627.

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