Ages and relative sizes of pre-2004 tsunamis in the Bay of Bengal inferred from geologic evidence in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands



[1] Geologic evidence along the northern part of the 2004 Aceh-Andaman rupture suggests that this region generated as many as five tsunamis in the prior 2000 years. We identify this evidence by drawing analogy with geologic records of land-level change and the tsunami in 2004 from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N). These analogs include subsided mangrove swamps, uplifted coral terraces, liquefaction, and organic soils coated by sand and coral rubble. The pre-2004 evidence varies in potency, and materials dated provide limiting ages on inferred tsunamis. The earliest tsunamis occurred between the second and sixth centuries A.D., evidenced by coral debris of the southern Car Nicobar Island. A subsequent tsunami, probably in the range A.D. 770–1040, is inferred from deposits both in A&N and on the Indian subcontinent. It is the strongest candidate for a 2004-caliber earthquake in the past 2000 years. A&N also contain tsunami deposits from A.D. 1250 to 1450 that probably match those previously reported from Sumatra and Thailand, and which likely date to the 1390s or 1450s if correlated with well-dated coral uplift offshore Sumatra. Thus, age data from A&N suggest that within the uncertainties in estimating relative sizes of paleo-earthquakes and tsunamis, the 1000 year interval can be divided in half by the earthquake or earthquakes of A.D. 1250–1450 of magnitude >8.0 and consequent tsunamis. Unlike the transoceanic tsunamis generated by full or partial rupture of the subduction interface, the A&N geology further provides evidence for the smaller-sized historical tsunamis of 1762 and 1881, which may have been damaging locally.