The geochemical signature of the Tohoku-oki tsunami deposit and underlying soil was assessed two months, five months and seven months after the 11 March 2011 tsunami inundated the Sendai Plain. The extent of the recognisable sand deposit was traced up to 2.9km inland while a mud deposit was found up to 4.65km inland, representing 60% and nearly 95% of the maximum tsunami inundation, respectively. The limit of tsunami inundation was identified 4.85km from the shore using geochemical marine markers (S and Cl) two months after the tsunami, in the absence of any sedimentological evidence. Concentrations of other geochemical markers (K, Ca, Sr) indicative of the marine incursion and associated minerals were found to decrease landward. δ13C and δ15N and C/N ratios suggested a mixture of terrestrial and marine organic sources in the sediment, while δ34S of sulphate reflected the marine source of water soluble salts. The chemical composition of the 869AD Jogan tsunami sand deposit was characterised by high Sr and Rb concentrations and was comparable to that of the Tohoku-oki tsunami deposit, suggesting that the sources of sediment may be similar. Marked decreases in S and Cl with time indicated that rainfall resulted in the leaching of salts from the sandy sediments. However, both S and Cl markers as well as Sr were still well preserved in the muddy sediments and underlying soil beyond the limit of the recognisable sand deposit seven months after the tsunami. This suggests that geochemical indicators may well be useful in identifying the extent of historical and palaeotsunamis by determining the marine origin of fine grained sediments beyond the limit of recognisable sand deposition, in particular when marine microfossils are sparse or lacking as is the case on the Sendai Plain. This would allow researchers to redraw palaeotsunami inundation maps and re-assess the magnitude of events such as the Jogan tsunami and other palaeotsunamis, not only on the Sendai Plain but also elsewhere around the world. This has important implications for tsunami risk assessment, hazard mitigation and preparedness.
- Geochemical signatures
- Indicator of maximum inundation
- Mud deposit
- Stable isotopes of S, C and N
- Tsunami deposit