Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
17 Jun 2010
 | 17 Jun 2010

Numerical modelling of historical landslide-generated tsunamis in the French Lesser Antilles

B. Poisson and R. Pedreros

Abstract. Two historical landslide-induced tsunamis that reached the coasts of the French Lesser Antilles are studied. First, the Martinique coast was hit by a tsunami down the western flank of Montagne Pelée at the beginning of the big eruption of May 1902. More recently, the northeastern coast of Guadeloupe was affected by a tsunami that had been generated around Montserrat by pyroclastic flows entering the sea, during the July 2003 eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano. We use a modified version of the GEOWAVE model to compute numerical simulations of both events. Two source hypotheses are considered for each tsunami. The comparison of the simulation results with reported tsunami height data helps to discriminate between the tested source decriptions. In the Martinique case, we obtain a better fit to data when considering three successive lahars entering the sea, as a simplified single source leads to an overstimation of the tsunami wave heights at the coast. In the Montserrat case, the best model uses a unique source which volume corresponds to published data concerning the peak volume flow. These findings emphasize the importance of an accurate description of the relevant volume as well as the timing sequence of the source event in landslide-generated tsunami modelling. They also show that considering far-field effects in addition to near-field effects may significantly improve tsunami modelling.