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

Tsunami risk assessment in the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia) through numerical modeling of generic far-field events

H. Hébert, F. Schindelé, and P. Heinrich

Abstract. Earthquakes occurring at the Pacific Rim can trigger tsunamis that propagate across the ocean and can produce significant damages far away from the source. In French Polynesia, the Marquesas Islands are the most exposed to the far-field tsunami hazards, since they are not protected by any outer coral reef and since submarine slopes are less steep than in other islands. Between 1994 and 1996, four tsunamis have reached the bays of the archipelago, among them, the tsunami initiated by the Chilean Mw 8.1 earthquake, produced up to 3 m high waves in Tahauku Bay. Numerical modeling of these recent events has already allowed us to validate our method of resolution of hydrodynamics laws through a finite-difference scheme that simulates the propagation of the tsunamis across the ocean and computes the inundation heights (run-up) in remote bays. We present in this paper the simulations carried out to study potentially threatening areas located at the Pacific Rim, on the seismogenic Aleutian and Tonga subduction zones. We use a constant seismic moment source (that of the Mw 8.1 Chile 1995 earthquake, M0 = 1.2 1021 N.m) located at several potential epicenters, with the fault strike adapted from the regional seismotectonics pattern. Our results show that the sources chosen in the Aleutian trench do not produce large inundations in the Marquesas bays, except for the easternmost source (longitude 194° E). Sources located in the Tonga trench do not produce high amplifications either, except for the northernmost one (latitude 16° S). We also discuss the behaviour of the tsunami waves within the archipelago, and evidence contrasting responses depending on the arrival azimuths. These results show that, for a given initial seismic energy, the tsunami amplification in remote bays is highly dependent on the source location and fault strike.

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