Potential predecessors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: sedimentary evidence of extreme wave events at Ban Bang Sak, SW Thailand

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Brill, D, Bruckner, H, Jankaew, K, Kelletat, D, Scheffers, A & Scheffers, S 2011, 'Potential predecessors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: sedimentary evidence of extreme wave events at Ban Bang Sak, SW Thailand', Sedimentary Geology, vol. 239, no. 3-4, pp. 146-161.

Publisher version available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sedgeo.2011.06.008

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Where historical records are short and/or fragmentary, geological evidence is an important tool to reconstruct the recurrence rate of extreme wave events (tsunamis and/or storms). This is particularly true for those coastal zones around the Indian Ocean, where predecessors of similar magnitude as the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami (IOT) have not been reported by written sources. In this context, the sedimentary record of the Holocene coastal plain of Ban Bang Sak (Phang-nga province, Thailand) provides evidence of multiple prehistoric coastal flooding events in the form of allochthonous sand beds, which were radiocarbon dated to 700–500, 1350–1180, and younger than 2000 cal BP. The layers were assigned to high-energy events of marine origin, which could be either tsunamis or tropical storms, by means of granulometry, geochemistry, vertical structure, and macrofossil content. Although no landfall of a strong storm has occurred in the last 150 years of meteorological data recording, cyclones cannot be ruled out for the last centuries and millennia. However, discrimination between tsunami and storm origin was mainly based on the comparison of the palaeoevent beds with the local deposit of the IOT, which revealed similar characteristics in regard to spatial extend and sediment properties. Furthermore, the youngest palaeoevent correlates with contemporaneous deposits from Thailand and more distant coasts. Hence, we relate it to a basin wide tsunami which took place 700–500 years ago. For the sediments of older extreme events, deposited between 2000 and 1180 cal BP, we found no unambiguous counterparts at other sites; nevertheless, at least for now, they are treated as tsunami candidates.