The Sissano, Papua New Guinea tsunami of July 1998 — offshore evidence on the source mechanism

Tappin, D.R.; Watts, P.; McMurtry, G.M.; Lafoy, Y.; Matsumoto, T.. 2001 The Sissano, Papua New Guinea tsunami of July 1998 — offshore evidence on the source mechanism. Marine Geology, 175 (1-4). 1-23.

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The source of the local tsunami of 17th July 1998 that struck the north shore of Papua New Guinea remains controversial, and has been postulated as due either to seabed dislocation (fault) or sediment slump. Alternative source mechanisms of the tsunami were addressed by offshore investigation using multibeam bathymetry, sub-bottom profiling, sediment sampling and observation from the JAMSTEC Dolphin 3 K Remotely Operated Vehicle and Shinkai 2000 Manned Submersible. The area offshore of Sissano is a complex active convergent margin with subduction taking place along the New Guinea Trench. Dominant transpressional convergence results in diachronous collision of the highstanding North Bismarck Sea Plate in a westerly direction. The result is a morphological variation along the Inner Trench Slope, with the boundary between eastern and western segments located offshore Sissano in an area of on- and offshore subsidence. This subsidence, together with nearshore bathymetric focusing, is considered to increase the tsunamigenic potential of the Sissano area. The offshore data allow discrimination between tsunami generating mechanisms with the most probable source mechanism of the local tsunami as a sediment slump located offshore of Sissano Lagoon. The approximately 5–10 km3 slump is located in an arcuate, amphitheatre-shaped structure in cohesive sediments that failed through rotational faulting. In the area of the amphitheatre there is evidence of recent seabed movement in the form of fissures, brecciated angular sediment blocks, vertical slopes, talus deposits and active fluid expulsion that maintains a chemosynthetic vent fauna. Dating of the slump event may be approximated by the age of the chemosynthetic faunas as well as by a seismic signal from the failing sediment mass. Faults in the area offshore Sissano are mainly dip–slip to the north with recent movement only along planes of limited lateral extent. A possible thrust fault is of limited extent and with minimal (cm) reverse movement. Further numerical modelling of the tsunami also supports the slump as source over fault displacements.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Other
ISSN: 0025-3227
Additional Keywords: Tsunami; Papua New Guinea; Slumping; Seismology; Subduction
NORA Subject Terms: Marine Sciences
Date made live: 13 Jul 2018 12:57 +0 (UTC)

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