Articles | Volume 6, issue 1
16 Jan 2006
16 Jan 2006

Submarine landslides in the Santa Barbara Channel as potential tsunami sources

H. G. Greene, L. Y. Murai, P. Watts, N. A. Maher, M. A. Fisher, C. E. Paull, and P. Eichhubl

Abstract. Recent investigations using the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institutes (MBARI) Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) "Ventana" and "Tiburon" and interpretation of MBARI's EM 300 30 kHz multibeam bathymetric data show that the northern flank of the Santa Barbara Basin has experienced massive slope failures. Of particular concern is the large (130 km2) Goleta landslide complex located off Coal Oil Point near the town of Goleta, that measures 14.6-km long extending from a depth of 90 m to nearly 574 m deep and is 10.5 km wide. We estimate that approximately 1.75 km3 has been displaced by this slide during the Holocene. This feature is a complex compound submarine landslide that contains both surfical slump blocks and mud flows in three distinct segments. Each segment is composed of a distinct head scarp, down-dropped head block and a slide debris lobe. The debris lobes exhibit hummocky topography in the central areas that appear to result from compression during down slope movement. The toes of the western and eastern lobes are well defined in the multibeam image, whereas the toe of the central lobe is less distinct. Continuous seismic reflection profiles show that many buried slide debris lobes exist and comparison of the deformed reflectors with ODP Drill Site 149, Hole 893 suggest that at least 200 000 years of failure have occurred in the area (Fisher et al., 2005a). Based on our interpretation of the multibeam bathymetry and seismic reflection profiles we modeled the potential tsunami that may have been produced from one of the three surfical lobes of the Goleta slide. This model shows that a 10 m high wave could have run ashore along the cliffs of the Goleta shoreline.

Several other smaller (2 km2 and 4 km2) slides are located on the northern flank of the Santa Barbara Basin, both to the west and east of Goleta slide and on the Conception fan along the western flank of the basin. One slide, named the Gaviota slide, is 3.8 km2, 2.6 km long and 1.7 km wide. A distinct narrow scar extends from near the eastern head wall of this slide for over 2km eastward toward the Goleta slide and may represent either an incipient failure or a remnant of a previous failure. Push cores collected within the main head scar of this slide consisted of hydrogen sulfide bearing mud, possibly suggesting active fluid seepage and a vibra-core penetrated ~50 cm of recent sediment overlying colluvium or landslide debris confirming the age of ~300 years as proposed by Lee et al. (2004). However, no seeps or indications of recent movement were observed during our ROV investigation within this narrow head scar indicating that seafloor in the scar is draped with mud.