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Journal Articles Geophysical Journal International Year : 2011

The El Asnam 1980 October 10 inland earthquake: a new hypothesis of tsunami generation


The Western Mediterranean Sea is not considered as a high seismic region. Only several earthquakes with magnitude above five occur each year and only a handful have consequences on human beings and infrastructure.

The El Asnam (Algeria) earthquake of 1980 October 10 with an estimated magnitude Ms= 7.3 is one of the most destructive earthquakes recorded in northern Africa and more largely in the Western Mediterranean Basin. Although it is located inland, it is known to have been followed by a small tsunami recorded on several tide gauges along the southeastern Spanish Coast. In 1954, a similar earthquake having occurred at the same location induced a turbidity current associated to a submarine landslide, which is widely known to have cut submarine phone cables far from the coast. This event was followed by a small tsunami attributed to the landslide. Thus the origin of the tsunami of 1980 was promptly attributed to the same kind of submarine slide. As no evidence of such mass movement was highlighted, and because the tsunami wave periods does not match with a landslide origin in both cases (1954 and 1980), this study considers two rupture scenarios, that the coseismic deformation itself (of about 10 cm off the Algerian coast near Ténès) is sufficient to produce a low amplitude (several centimetres) tsunami able to reach the Spanish southeastern coast from Alicante to Algeciras (Gibraltar strait to the west).

After a discussion concerning the proposed rupture scenarios and their respective parameters, numerical tsunami modelling is performed on a set of bathymetric grids. Then the results of wave propagation and amplification (maximum wave height maps) are discussed, with a special attention to Alicante (Spain) Harbour where the location of two historical tide gauges allows the comparison between synthetic mareograms and historical records showing sufficient signal amplitude.

This study is part of the active tsunami hazard assessment in Mediterranean Sea especially concerning its occidental part, that is, the Algerian, Spanish and French coasts.

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insu-03606473 , version 1 (12-03-2022)





J. Roger, H. Hébert, J. -C. Ruegg, P. Briole. The El Asnam 1980 October 10 inland earthquake: a new hypothesis of tsunami generation. Geophysical Journal International, 2011, 185, pp.1135-1146. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05003.x⟩. ⟨insu-03606473⟩
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