Tsunamis – Deposits or Wrong Interpretation, Again

The following video of the Fukushima tsunami is relevant:

The Aceh tsunami

Waves tend to wash over land and very quickly run out of energy.

So-called tsunami deposits, large gravel and sand deposits, have one irritating problem – where did the detritus come from? Wave deposition of sand is a well studied phenomenon but tsunamis depositing conglomerates are another matter, for the question is where did the tsunami pick up the material in the first place.

I suspect it’s another arguing the consequent fallacy – conglomerate is a sediment, therefore water brought it to there, and since it is such a large deposit, only a tsunami could have done it.

Except that observing actual tsunamis reaching landfall, this interpretation is not supported by the facts.

And when tsunamis do reach landfall, they very quickly run out of energy and as a consequence lose their carrying capacity. Observe the behaviour of water dumped on northern Australia during the monsoon season, and look for the gravel deposits. The gravels are there in the river channels,  but as I discovered at the Drysdale River Crossing in the north east Kimberley on Carson River Station, on the way to the King George River, a bulldozed sand/cobble ramp almost in the middle of the channel, doesn’t seem to show any evidence of typical sedimentary transport effects. Even after severe monsoons and cyclones in this region.

My experience dealing with the sampling of rivers and drainages for diamond indicator minerals suggests that these flow regimes may have the power to transport silt and sand sized particles and lag gravels on top of sand chocked channels, but the choked sand doesn’t move. Nor do these sand choked drainages act as jig beds during flood; the sand simply stalls between bedrock highs, and the water simply flows over them, with out picking up any sediment.

Which is why I have proposed the mechanism of magnetoturbidites, similar to the transported rock etc shown in the Star Wars Rogue One movie.

(Magnetoturbidites is an awkward neologism, and a better one should be considered).

But tsunamis don’t deposit gravels because when the do reach landfall, they have no sediment load, and when moving over land to become dissipated, the carrying capacity of the water is drastically reduced with distance, and hence the ability to transport massive volumes of gravels is absent.

About Louis Hissink

Retired diamond exploration geologist. I spent my professional life looking for mineral deposits, found some, and also located a number of kimberlites in NSW and Western Australia. Exploration geology is the closest one can get to practicing the scientific method, mineral exploration always being concerned with finding anomalous geophysical or geochemical data, framing a model and explanation for the anomaly and then testing it with drilling or excavation. All scientific theories are ultimately false since they invariably involved explaining something with incomplete extant knowledge. Since no one is omniscient or knows everything, so too scientific theories which are solely limited to existing knowledge. Because the future always yields new data, scientific theories must change to be compatible with the new data. Thus a true scientist is never in love with any particular theory, always knowing that when the facts change, so too must he/she change their minds.
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4 Responses to Tsunamis – Deposits or Wrong Interpretation, Again

  1. thx1138 says:

    Interesting observations regarding tsunamis. One thing strange about the Fukushima incident is that there appears to be no earthquake damage to buildings. Wasn’t this supposed to be a 9.0 earthquake?


    • The earthquake was out at sea, and its immediate effect was to generate the tsunami, and we have zero idea what caused the ‘quake as well. NCGT Journal (there is a new site for it on the web with links from the old site) authors are verging to some sort of electrical or plasma model but seismic studies that are presently used, rely on our understanding of gravity, which we don’t as Wal Thornhill points out.


  2. IRFM says:

    The Tertiary Gold Deposits at Nome, Alaska and Wallaga Lake, not far from the Hissink retirement locale are residual fluvial deposits. Sea level changes and subsequent erosion have seen the alluvial sequence removed of its finer componentry. While the offshore Nome deposit has abundant coarse gold left behind after wave action, the same could not be said for offshore Bermagui. Drilling there in the summer of 1968 yielded abundant well sorted coarse cobble gravels. The depth of drilling was quite shallow and certainly did not reach basement at any stage. Needless to say there was no gold even though the Wallaga Lake ‘field’ clearly had had alluvial gold.
    Including the diamonds deposits offshore Samarkland? and the gravel deposits in the English Channel all of these deposits are the result of high energy inputs from remote onshore sources with final sorting carried out once deposited in the marine environment.
    You may recall all the samples you logged in 1970 had a particle size of less than2-3 mm with the only coarse fraction reported at the mouth of Broken Bay.


    • Indeed, high energy inputs from remote sources and the point I’m making is that water alone, whether tsunami or otherwise, isn’t capable of achieving this. I frequently drive over the Tarraganda Bridge near Bega and observe the apparent unchanging channel topography of the sand filling the channel. Actually I should take some photos today (thursday) as there was a solar Flare/CME a couple of days ago that should result in some very wet weather when it reaches the Earth.

      The other issue is water flow over irregular bedrock – the flow regime at the water-rock interface is laminar with turbulence occurring in the body of the flowing water mass once it reaches a critical velocity. Laminar flow? I suspect it’s EZ water, and if so then the flowing water has no intrinsic ability to erode or acquire bed load since the water essentially slips over the bedrock irregularities since EZ water is ice-like but more like graphite, or hexagonal sheets, which causes horizontal slippage. And if it’s EZ water at the channel-fluid interface, that water also excludes particulate matter, so another explanation why water is not such an efficient eroding mechanism.

      1970 – Interesting times, especially core splitting a certain dolerite plug in the lab- John Read even tried to diamond saw a bit of core, and it took hours to cut 1 cm, so they gave up. Memories, memories.


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