The second largest recorded tsunami along the Caribbean margin of Central America occurred 25 years ago. On April 22nd, 1991, an earthquake with magnitude Mw 7.6 ruptured along the thrust faults that form the North Panamá Deformed Belt (NPDB). The earthquake triggered a tsunami that affected the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and Panamá within few minutes, generating two casualties. These are the only deaths caused by a tsunami in Costa Rica. Coseismic uplift up to 1.6 m and runup values larger than 2 m were measured along some coastal sites. Here, we consider three solutions for the seismic source as initial conditions to model the tsunami, each considering a single rupture plane. We performed numerical modeling of the tsunami propagation and runup using NEOWAVE numerical model (Yamazaki et al. in Int J Numer Methods Fluids 67:2081–2107, 2010, doi: 10.1002/fld.2485 ) on a system of nested grids from the entire Caribbean Sea to Limón city. The modeled surface deformation and tsunami runup agreed with the measured data along most of the coastal sites with one preferred model that fits the field data. The model results are useful to determine how the 1991 tsunami could have affected regions where tsunami records were not preserved and to simulate the effects of the coastal surface deformations as buffer to tsunami. We also performed tsunami modeling to simulate the consequences if a similar event with larger magnitude Mw 7.9 occurs offshore the southern Costa Rican Caribbean coast. Such event would generate maximum wave heights of more than 5 m showing that Limón and northwestern Panamá coastal areas are exposed to moderate-to-large tsunamis. These simulations considering historical events and maximum credible scenarios can be useful for hazard assessment and also as part of studies leading to tsunami evacuation maps and mitigation plans, even when that is not the scope of this paper.
Pure and Applied Geophysics – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 1, 2017
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