Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
17 Jul 2008
 | 17 Jul 2008

The 1856 Djijelli (Algeria) earthquake and tsunami: source parameters and implications for tsunami hazard in the Balearic Islands

J. Roger and H. Hébert

Abstract. In 1856, one (or two) destructive earthquake(s) occurred off Djijelli (Algeria) and probably triggered a tsunami in the western Mediterranean Sea. Following recently published results of marine campaigns along the North-Algerian margin, a new source hypothesis for the earthquake has been proposed, and is constituted with a set of three "en échelon" fault segments positioned in agreement with previous studies of this earthquake and with macroseismic data available. The geometrical parameters for this source, in agreement with a Mw = 7.2 earthquake, display an average 40° NW dip, a 80° strike and mean dimensions of 80 km (length) × 20 km (width). A coseismic slip of 1.5 m is consistent with an average convergence rate of about 5–6 mm/yr and a recurrence period of 300–400 years. They are then introduced in the tsunami modelling code to study the propagation across the Mediterranean Sea with a special attention towards the Balearic Islands. A focus on the two major towns, Palma (Majorca) and Mahon (Minorca) Harbours shows that these places are not the most exposed (maximum water heights less than 1 m) by tsunami waves coming from this part of the African margin. Specific amplifications revealed by modelling occur off the southern coast of Minorca and the southeastern coast of Majorca, mostly related to submarine bathymetric features, and are able to produce coastal wave heights larger than 1 to 2 m as offshore Alcalfar (Minorca). A deep submarine canyon southward Minorca leads to the amplification of waves up to two times on both sides of the canyon. However these modellings could not be compared to any historical observations, non-existent for these sites. This work is a contribution to the study of tsunami hazard in western Mediterranean based on modelling, and offers a first assessment of the tsunami exposure in the Balearic Islands.