Millennial paleotsunami history at Minna Island, southern Ryukyu Islands, Japan

Ryosuke Fujita, Kazuhisa Goto, Yasufumi Iryu, Tomoya Abe

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Huge tsunami waves have repeatedly bombarded the southern end of the Ryukyu Islands (Miyako and Yaeyama Islands, southwestern Japan) at several-hundred-year intervals. Therefore, clarifying the islands’ paleotsunami history is important for risk assessment. Nevertheless, discrepancies of paleotsunami histories exist among regional studies of tsunami boulders and sandy tsunami deposits. Radiocarbon ages of tsunami boulders indicate that tsunami events of the last 2400 years have occurred every 150–400 years, most recently the historical 1771 Meiwa tsunami. Sandy tsunami deposits at Yaeyama Islands show that four tsunami events of the last 2000 years struck the islands at approximately 600-year intervals. Sandy tsunami deposits of the Miyako Islands have been studied only rarely. Therefore, studying sandy tsunami deposits in the Miyako Islands is crucially important for clarifying the paleotsunami history of this region. We conducted a trench survey on Minna Island, located among the westernmost Miyako Islands, which revealed two sandy tsunami deposits under a coral tsunami boulder transported by the 1771 tsunami. The upper tsunami deposit was likely deposited by the 1771 tsunami, as inferred from stratigraphic correlation to the tsunami boulder. However, the lower tsunami deposit was probably deposited 700–1000 years ago, which is consistent with the age range of the paleotsunami reported for Yaeyama Islands. Because sandy tsunami deposits found in this and earlier studies are thick and deposited at high elevation and far inland, these are useful markers of large tsunami events similar to the 1771 event. However, the reported tsunami boulders of various sizes are deposited along the coast and reefs: they can be formed not only by large tsunami events but also by small ones. It is noteworthy that each tsunami deposit is coarse and thick (40–48 cm) relative to the island elevation (about 12 m maximum, 7 m above the mean sea level at the study site). By assuming that tsunamis have affected this region repeatedly during the past few thousand years at around 600-year intervals, tsunamis might have been important geomorphic agents for building up small reef-surrounded islands such as Minna Island. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalProgress in Earth and Planetary Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1


  • 1771 Meiwa tsunami
  • Geomorphology
  • Minna Island
  • Paleotsunami history
  • Radiocarbon age
  • Tsunami boulder
  • Tsunami deposit


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