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The 2006 July 17 Java (Indonesia) tsunami from satellite imagery and numerical modelling: a single or complex source?



The Mw 7.8 2006 July 17 earthquake off the southern coast of Java, Indonesia, has been responsible for a very large tsunami causing more than 700 casualties. The tsunami has been observed on at least 200 km of coastline in the region of Pangandaran (West Java), with run-up heights from 5 to more than 20 m. Such a large tsunami, with respect to the source magnitude, has been attributed to the slow character of the seismic rupture, defining the event as a so-called tsunami earthquake, but it has also been suggested that the largest run-up heights are actually the result of a second local landslide source. Here we test whether a single slow earthquake source can explain the tsunami run-up, using a combination of new detailed data in the region of the largest run-ups and comparison with modelled run-ups for a range of plausible earthquake source models.

Using high-resolution satellite imagery (SPOT 5 and Quickbird), the coastal impact of the tsunami is refined in the surroundings of the high-security Permisan prison on Nusa Kambangan island, where 20 m run-up had been recorded directly after the event. These data confirm the extreme inundation lengths close to the prison, and extend the area of maximum impact further along the Nusa Kambangan island (about 20 km of shoreline), where inundation lengths reach several hundreds of metres, suggesting run-up as high as 10–15 m.

Tsunami modelling has been conducted in detail for the high run-up Permisan area (Nusa Kambangan) and the PLTU power plant about 25 km eastwards, where run-up reached only 4–6 m and a video recording of the tsunami arrival is available. For the Permisan prison a high-resolution DEM was built from stereoscopic satellite imagery. The regular basin of the PLTU plant was designed using photographs and direct observations. For the earthquake's mechanism, both static (infinite) and finite (kinematic) ruptures are investigated using two published source models. The models account rather well for the sea level variation at PLTU, showing a better agreement in arrival times with the finite rupture, and predict the Permisan area to be one of the regions where tsunami waves would have focussed. However, the earthquake models that match the data at PTLU do not predict that the wave heights at Permisan are an overall maximum, and do not predict there more than 10 m of the 21 observed. Hence, our results confirm that an additional localized tsunami source off Nusa Kambangan island, such as a submarine landslide, may have increased the tsunami impact for the Permisan site. This reinforces the importance for hazard assessment of further mapping and understanding local potential for submarine sliding, as a tsunami source added to usual earthquake sources.