National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2014

Hydroacoustic investigation of submarine landslides at West Mata volcano, Lau Basin

Caplan-Auerbach, J., R.P. Dziak, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, W.W. Chadwick, and T.-K. Lau

Geophys. Res. Lett., 41(16), 5927–5934, doi: 10.1002/2014GL060964 (2014)

Submarine landslides are an important process in volcano growth yet are rarely observed and poorly understood. We show that landslides occur frequently in association with the eruption of West Mata volcano in the NE Lau Basin. These events are identifiable in hydroacoustic data recorded between ~5 and 20 km from the volcano and may be recognized in spectrograms by the weak and strong powers at specific frequencies generated by multipathing of sound waves. The summation of direct and surface-reflected arrivals causes interference patterns in the spectrum that change with time as the landslide propagates. Observed frequencies are consistent with propagation down the volcano's north flank in an area known to have experienced mass wasting in the past. These data allow us to estimate the distance traveled by West Mata landslides and show that they travel at average speeds of ~10–25 m/s.

Feature Publications | Outstanding Scientific Publications

Contact Sandra Bigley |