Truncated flame structures within a deposit of the Indian Ocean Tsunami: evidence of syn-sedimentary deformation



This study reveals the three-dimensional morphology and syn-sedimentary formation processes of a deformation structure termed ‘truncated flame structures’ which is found in a terrestrial tsunami deposit in southern Thailand that formed during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The structure was found at the boundary between a lower fine-grained layer and an upper coarse-grained layer that are related to two runup events. In order to confirm the morphology of the structure, the authors excavated two trenches and an opencast pit. When viewed in a cross-section oriented parallel to the direction of the runup current, the deformed boundary has an irregularly bulging profile, similar to that observed in flame structures. The protruding structures are inclined towards the downstream direction of the runup current, and are truncated horizontally along their upper surface by parallel laminations in the overlying layer. When viewed in a cross-section oriented perpendicular to the current direction, it appears that parts of the upper layer descend into the lower layer as lobate masses. In places, these masses are completely detached from the main part of the upper layer, forming circular or elliptical shapes. The contact between the lower layer and the main part of the upper layer is a planar truncation surface. Opencast excavation of the contact surface revealed that the deformed structures have flat, sinuous horseshoe crests that open in a downstream direction. It is possible for the runup current to generate shear stress such that it deforms the boundary into a truncated flame structure. Moreover, the observations made in this study indicate the syn-sedimentary development of the structure: deformation and truncation occurred simultaneously in association with the runup current that formed the upper layer. Truncated flame structures can be used as a criterion in identifying the syn-sedimentary deformation of substrate: the structures are indicative of unidirectional flow with sufficiently high shear velocity to deform unconsolidated substrate. As in the present case, the truncated flame structures may be characteristic of tsunami events that involve strong unidirectional currents on land due to the extraordinarily long wave period of tsunamis, rather than other events such as storm surges or flooding.