Tsunami Genesis of Strike-Slip Earthquakes Revealed in the 2018 Indonesian Palu...

Song, T., K. Chen, and G. Prasetya (2023), Tsunami Genesis of Strike-Slip Earthquakes Revealed in the 2018 Indonesian Palu Event, Pure Appl. Geophys, doi:10.1007/s00024-023-03295-x.

The devastating tsunami after the 2018 Indonesian Sulawesi-Palu strike-slip earthquake was a surprise because strikeslip faulting was a known phenomenon of primarily lateral movement of land, while tsunamis were believed to be caused by vertical movements of seafloor or landslides. Here we demonstrated how the strike-slip faulting could have pushed waters from outside and inside the Palu Bay to form a powerful tsunami in the Palu Bay. We constructed three earthquake inversions from seismographs, satellite radar and optical imagery, and used an opensource ocean circulation model to replicate the tsunami. Our experiments revealed that: (1) the southward horizontal displacement of deeper-water slopes along the Makassar coast generated a long-wave tsunami of 40 km, propagating southward into the Palu Bay and consisting with the two distinguished tsunami-peaks in the Pantoloan tide-record, twice higher than the local resonance waves; (2) the two types of tsunamis in the Mamuju tide-record—the ‘‘early arrival’’ tsunami and the late larger tsunami—were originated from the outside and inside sources; and (3) the eyewitness account of the whirlpool circulation in the Palu Bay could be explained by the horizontal strike-slip forcing of the two involved tectonic plates. The east plate was largely responsible for pushing the long-wave tsunami southward that inundated the Palu City and resulted in the devastation. Our findings suggest that the tsunami’s behavior of strike-slip earthquakes is more complex than previously thought and should be considered in future tsunami early warnings.

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Research Program: 
Physical Oceanography Program (POP)
Interdisciplinary Science Program (IDS)
Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)