Erosion, deposition and landscape change on the Sendai coastal plain, Japan, resulting from the March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami

Bruce Richmond, Witold Szczuciński, Catherine Chagué-Goff, Kazuhisa Goto, Daisuke Sugawara, Rob Witter, David R. Tappin, Bruce Jaffe, Shigehiro Fujino, Yuichi Nishimura, James Goff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


Case studies of recent tsunami impacts have proven to be extremely useful in understanding the geologic processes involved during inundation and return flow, and refining the criteria used to identify paleotsunami deposits in the geologic record. Here, we report on erosion, deposition and associated landscape change resulting from the March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami along a nearly 4.5. km shore-normal transect on the coastal plain near Sendai, Japan. The study area on the broad, low-relief prograding coastal Sendai plain comprised a sand beach backed by ~. 3. m high sand dunes and a forest, a wetland, the Teizan canal, agricultural rice fields, buildings and roads.Field observations focused on measurements of tsunami flow characteristics (height and direction), mapping of erosion features and assessing sediment deposition based on shallow trenches at 50-100. m spacing. Recorded tsunami inundation heights reached up to about 11. m above mean sea level within the first 500. m from the shoreline and then ranged between 3 and 5. m for the next 2. km, gradually decreasing to about 3. m close to the inundation limit. The tsunami deposit generally thinned landward from an average maximum ~. 30. cm thick sand deposit in the coastal forest to a thin mud drape several mm thick near the inundation limit. A discontinuous sand-dominated sheet was prevalent to about 2800. m from the shoreline where mud content then gradually increased further landward eventually resulting in a mud-dominated deposit ranging from 3.5. cm to a few mm thickness. The overall thinning and fining of the deposit was often interrupted by localized features that led to complex sedimentological relationships over short distances.Satellite imagery taken on 14 March 2011, 3. days after the Tohoku-oki Tsunami shows prominent foreshore incisions with 100. s. +. meters spacing alongshore, a foredune ridge that underwent severe erosion and development of a prominent shore-parallel elongated scour depression. Our field survey in early May 2011 revealed that the foreshore recovered quickly with rapid post-tsunami sediment deposition from incident waves, whereas the dune-ridge complex had undergone only minor re-working from eolian processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-39
Number of pages13
JournalSedimentary Geology
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Dec 30


  • Landscape change
  • Recovery
  • Sedimentology
  • Sendai plain
  • Tsunami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


Dive into the research topics of 'Erosion, deposition and landscape change on the Sendai coastal plain, Japan, resulting from the March 11, 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this