Most-Cited Award for Marine Geology Special Issue: “Tsunami Hazard along the U.S. Atlantic Coast”

Release Date:

This USGS-led special issue was published in 2009 and was among the journal’s three most-cited special issues in 2016 and 2017.

Illustration shows features of the seafloor with lines, dots, shading, and labels to show various geologic features.

Seafloor (dark gray) off the U.S. East Coast, showing areas of past landslides (blue). NC—Norfolk Canyon, WC—Wilmington Canyon, HC—Hudson Canyon, VC—Veatch Canyon. Inset shows study area location. NES—New England Seamounts. BS—Blake Spur, BE—Blake Escarpment. Figure 1 from Preface to “Tsunami Hazard along the U.S. Atlantic Coast.” Image credit: David Twichell, USGS.

This article is part of the June 2018 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter

A USGS-led special issue of Marine Geology received a most-cited certificate from the journal in May 2018. “Tsunami hazard along the U.S. Atlantic coast” (volume 264, no. 1–2) was published in 2009 and was among the journal’s three most-cited special issues in 2016 and 2017.

The U.S. Atlantic Coast (also called the East Coast) is highly vulnerable to tsunami damage because major population centers and industrial facilities are located near the shoreline at low-lying elevations. Assessing the tsunami hazard in this region is a challenge—assessment typically relies on analysis of past events, but very few tsunamis have struck the U.S. East Coast in historical times and evidence for pre-historic tsunamis is scarce.

A diverse group of marine geologists, geophysicists, geotechnical engineers, and hydrodynamic modelers joined forces to address this problem, developing methods to evaluate the likely sources of tsunamis that could impact the East Coast. Although earthquakes trigger most Pacific and Indian Ocean tsunamis, the primary source of potential tsunamis on the U.S. Atlantic Coast is underwater landslides—a major focus of the 2009 special issue.

Eight of the papers presented new research conducted as part of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (U.S. NRC)-funded project, which provided tsunami-hazard evaluations for use by electrical power utilities and the U.S. NRC in the licensing process for new nuclear power plants. The ninth paper was written in response to an evaluation request by an insurance company. The Preface provides an overall summary.

The compilation was among three most-cited special issues of Marine Geology in 2016–2017 because it addressed fundamental aspects of landslide generation, mobilization, and probability, as well as providing an overview of landslide and earthquake-generated tsunami hazards to the heavily populated, low-elevation U.S. East Coast. USGS authors included Brian Andrews, Brian Buczkwoski, Jason Chaytor, Eric Geist, Homa Lee, Tom Parsons, Uri ten Brink, and David Twichell. Ten Brink also served as guest editor of the special issue.

After the publication appeared, further assessment of East Coast tsunami hazards proceeded with additional funding from the U.S. NRC for another 7 years, resulting in five coring and geophysical cruises (for example, see “Submarine Landslides as Potential Triggers of Tsunamis That Could Strike the U.S. East Coast” and “Earthquake, Landslide, and Tsunami Hazards in the Northeastern Caribbean—Insights from a 2013 E/V Nautilus Expedition”), a scientific workshop (see “Joint Nuclear Regulatory Commission/U.S. Geological Survey Workshop on Probability of Landslide-Generated Tsunamis,” numerous other papers and reports, and the publication of a 330-page report to the U.S. NRC.

Congratulations to all who contributed!