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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral  Research Fellowship Program

14-46.  Quantitative evaluation of landslide tsunami hazard to the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts

Tsunamis are among the world’s most destructive coastal hazards. The sharp increase in coastal population density, the intense development of harbors and urban infrastructure, tourism, and the exploitation of mineral resources in coastal areas, all set up a potential disaster of catastrophic proportions. Although the frequency of tsunamis along the Atlantic coast of North America is low, tsunamis in this region are a serious concern to policy makers and ordinary citizens because of the dense infrastructure and population along the shoreline. Major infrastructure projects, such as nuclear reactors, are designed with consideration for a catastrophic event over a long time period (10,000 years).

We seek a postdoctoral fellow to quantitatively evaluate the tsunami hazard to the U.S. Atlantic coast, where landslide-generated tsunamis are the major hazard sourc.

Little is known about submarine landslides, their excitation by ground shaking or by other processes, their recurrence interval, or the coupling between landslide and the overlying water layer. Pore pressure, fluid flow sediment strength, and long-term seismic activity must all contribute to pre-conditioning and failure initiation, but are largely unknown along this margin. Inferring the temporal distribution of submarine landslide distribution is challenging because of our inability to detect slope failures in real time, the considerable work involved in robustly dating landslide features and, sometimes because of the lack of datable material. Moreover, landslides, being a destructive process often erase the record of previous slides. An additional challenge to estimating landslide tsunami probability results from the uncertainty in the coupling of energy between the sliding mass and the water column. Tsunamis from two landslides with identical volumes could have different amplitudes depending on the slide speed and bottom friction. Finally, the framework of tsunami initiation from an aggregate failure of many small landslides within an area, such as happened during the 1929 Grand Banks tsunami, remains unknown.

The successful candidate is expected to employ novel methods to analyze available data and to investigate new models and theories to address the challenges in landside-tsunami hazard assessment. The available data include seismic records from a dense array of ocean-bottom seismometers over a landslide, and from a regional array to record micro-seismic activity. Additional data include high-resolution multichannel seismic reflection profiles and cores around some major landslides, and a database of detailed bathymetry and legacy seismic data. These data shed light on sediment properties, seismic activity, and possible triggering conditions of submarine landslides. The successful candidate is also expected to investigate theories and observations regarding the mobility of failed submarine sediments, and the effects of slide speed and bottom friction on the amplitude of tsunamis. The goal of the research is to contribute to the development of a probabilistic tsunami hazard assessment (PTHA) for landslide tsunamis.

Marine geohazards is a young and exciting interdisciplinary field that bridges geology, solid earth geophysics, seismology, civil engineering, and hydrodynamics.

Postdoctoral candidates in the fields of geophysics, geology (with a strong background in computer simulations), or civil engineering are encouraged to apply.

Proposed Duty Station: Woods Hole, MA

Areas of Ph.D.: Geology, geophysics, engineering

Qualifications: Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications – Research Geologist, Research Geophysicist, Research Engineer.

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above. However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of theposition will be made by the Human Resources specialist).

Research Advisor(s): Uri ten Brink, (508) 457-2396,; Jeffrey McGuire (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), (508) 289-3290,; Jason Chaytor, (508) 457-2351,; Daniel Brothers (508) 457-2293; Eric Geist, (650) 329-5457,

Human Resources Office Contact: Junell Norris, (303) 236-9557,

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: ten Brink.htm
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Last modified: 17:58:09 Tue 23 Jul 2013
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