Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 1109–1118, 2012

Special issue: Marine and lake paleoseismology

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 1109–1118, 2012

Research article 19 Apr 2012

Research article | 19 Apr 2012

Assessing enigmatic boulder deposits in NE Aegean Sea: importance of historical sources as tool to support hydrodynamic equations

M. Vacchi1,2, A. Rovere1,2,4, N. Zouros3, and M. Firpo1 M. Vacchi et al.
  • 1University of Genova, Department for the Study of the Territory and its Resources, Corso Europa 26, Genova, Italy
  • 2SEAMap srl, Via Greto di Cornigliano 6R, 16152 Genova, Italy
  • 3University of Aegean, Department of Geography, University Hill, Mytilene, Lesvos Island, Greece
  • 4Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, USA

Abstract. Due to their importance in the assessment of coastal hazards, several studies have focused on geomorphological and sedimentological field evidence of catastrophic wave impacts related to historical tsunami events. Among them, many authors used boulder fields as important indicators of past tsunamis, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. The aim of this study was to understand the mechanism of deposition of clusters of large boulders, consisting of beachrock slabs, which were found on the southern coasts of Lesvos Island (NE Aegean Sea). Methods to infer the origin of boulder deposits (tsunami vs. storm wave) are often based on hydrodynamic models even if different environmental complexities are difficult to be incorporated into numerical models. In this study, hydrodynamic equations did not provide unequivocal indication of the mechanism responsible for boulder deposition in the study area. Further analyses, ranging from geomorphologic to seismotectonic data, indicated a tsunami as the most likely cause of displacement of the boulders but still do not allow to totally exclude the extreme storm origin. Additional historical investigations (based on tsunami catalogues, historical photos and aged inhabitants interviews) indicated that the boulders are likely to have been deposited by the tsunami triggered by the 6.7 Ms Chios-Karaburum earthquake of 1949 or, alternatively, by minor effects of the destructive tsunami produced by 1956's Amorgos Island earthquake. Results of this study point out that, at Mediterranean scale, to flank numerical models with the huge amount of the available historical data become a crucial tool in terms of prevention policies related to catastrophic coastal events.