20131201_185246 (2)
Claire Kain
PhD candidate
Contact details:

Room 457a, D26 Building
UNSW, Kensington 2052

Tsunami signatures: Reconstructing the dynamics of pre-historic tsunamis from their sedimentary deposits

Tsunami events can significantly alter landscapes; changing coastline shape and causing severe erosion of beaches and coastal features. Run-up, erosion and deposition patterns depend very much on the geomorphology of the beach environment and much research has focused on identifying and interpreting varying types of tsunami depositional sequences. Previous research on pre-historic tsunami deposits has focused on locating these deposits and distinguishing them from similar features through multi-proxy analysis, but has largely been unable to provide detailed information on the characteristics and dynamics of the tsunamis that emplaced them.

The purpose of this research is to more clearly define the relationship between tsunami waves and the signatures they leave in the landscape. Paleotsunami research typically uses the extent of sedimentary deposits left by tsunami waves to estimate the runup and inundation distance of past tsunamis. However, such information can be limited by the ability to fully trace the extent of a paleotsunami deposit, and only minimum values will ever be obtained. This project aims to map prehistoric tsunami flow patterns and wave dynamics from tsunamigenic sediment deposits, at two sites in New Zealand. This will be achieved by applying a multi-proxy approach to identify tsunami signatures and trace their extent, using geochemical proxies, measurements of Magnetic Fabric (Anisotropy of Magnetic Susceptibility) and a modelling approach to determine flow patterns, tsunami dynamics and sediment transport paths.


Professor James Goff

Dr Catherine Chagué-Goff



Kain, C.L., Gomez, C., Hart, D.E., Chague-Goff, C., Goff, J. (2015). Analysis of environmental controls on tsunami deposit sedimentology. Marine Geology 368. 1-14.

Kain C.L., Gomez, C., Hart, D.E., Wassmer, P., Goff, J., Starheim, C. (2014). Assessing topographic controls on flow direction in washover deposits using measurements of Magnetic Fabric. Marine Geology, 350, 16-26 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2014.01.010

Kain, C.L., Gomez, C., Lavigne, F., Wassmer, P., Hart, D.E., (2014). Truncated dunes as evidence of the 2004 tsunami in North-Sumatra and environmental recovery one year post-tsunami. New Zealand Geographer, in press.

Starheim, C., Gomez, C., Harrison, J., Kain, C., Brewer, N. J., Owen, K., et al. (2013). Complex internal architecture of a debris‐flow deposit revealed using ground‐penetrating radar, Cass, New Zealand. New Zealand Geographer, 69(1), 26-38

Kain, C.L, Gomez, C. and Moghaddam, A. (2012). Comment on ‘Reassessment of hydrodynamic equations: Minimum flow velocity to initiate boulder transport by high energy events (storms, tsunamis), by N.A.K. Nandasena, R. Paris and N. Tanaka [Marine Geology 281, 70-84]. Marine Geology, 319-322,  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2011.08.008

Gomez, C., Wassmer, P., Kain, C. L., De Villiers, M., Campbell, K., Ward, S. and Moghaddam, A.  (2011) GIS Evaluation of the Impacts on the Built and the 'Natural' Environment of the 11 March 2011 Tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Japan. HAL Hyper Articles en Ligne http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00655023/fr/.

Kain C.L., (2010). Climate Change and Management of Coastal Lagoons in the Westland Region, New Zealand. Proc. International Symposium on Coastal Zones and Climate Change, Victoria, Australia, 12-13th April 2010, 11p.

Kain C.L and Hart D.E., (2009). Past, present and future evolution of coastal lagoons, Westland, New Zealand. Proc. Coast and Ports Australasian Conference, Wellington, 16-18th September 2009, 6p.