At 03:34 (local time) on 27 February 2010, the world's sixth largest earthquake on record (8.8 Mw) occurred off central Chile, rupturing a segment about 550 km long of the Nazca–South America plate boundary fault parallel to the coastline. This earthquake triggered a destructive tsunami that affected the entire Pacific basin, especially the Chilean coast in an extension of ∼580 km. Here we analyze observations of currents and sea level anomalies caused by the tsunami that were recorded ∼30 km east of the epicenter by an RDI 600 kHz ADCP installed facing upward at 35 m depth. Although the ADCP sampling rate was not optimal for this kind of phenomenon, we were able to document for the first time near-field ocean hydrodynamics caused by an earthquake-triggered tsunami. We combine our observations with measurements of sea level recorded by tide gauges located along the Chilean coast. The ADCP recorded the passage of five waves of about 1.5–2 m amplitude during approximately 4 h after the earthquake. The first wave hit the coast in about 20 min with slow flows and propagated faster northwards (where the trench is deeper) than it did to the south. The first strong flow arrived cross-shore (after the first wave) with a vertical mean speed of 65 cm/s. Unlike this first cross-shore flow, the following peak flows were increasingly aligned with the coastline and had magnitudes that, in at least two cases, exceeded 70 cm/s. These flows were consistent with edge waves driven by the contact between the tsunami and the coastline. Current and sea level measurements had more energetic periods at 35, 50 and 72 min, displaying a coherent relationship with the dominant oscillation modes of large-scale resonance.
Continental Shelf Research – Elsevier
Published: Oct 15, 2012
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