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A POSSIBLE TSUNAMI IN THE LABRADOR SEA RELATED TO THE DRAINAGE OF GLACIAL LAKE AGASSIZ ~8400 YEARS B.P.

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Author(s): James T. Teller | Tad Murty | N. Nirupama | P. Chittibabu

Journal: Science of Tsunami Hazards
ISSN 8755-6839

Volume: 23;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 3;
Date: 2005;
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Keywords: tsunamis | Laurentide Ice Sheet | tsunamis Labrador Sea | glacial lakes | flooding

ABSTRACT
For thousands of years, the thick Laurentide Ice Sheet covered a large part of northern North America, damming northward-draining rivers. As this ice retreated, large lakes formed along its margin. Glacial Lake Agassiz was the largest of these ice-marginal lakes, covering an area of >800,000 km2 (more than twice the size of the largest lake in the modern world, the Caspian Sea) before it drained catastrophically into the Labrador Sea. Even before that, Lake Agassiz had periodically released large volumes of water into the ocean via the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence and the Athabasca-Mackenzie River systems. The last and largest of these outbursts released >150,000 km3 through Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait in 6-12 months; the average flux over that period was ~5 Sv (1 Sv = 1×106 m3s-1).When a volume of water this large is discharged into a coastal sea like the Labrador Sea, it may generate a surface flood wave or a tsunami if the water mass is large enough and introduced in a short time. To our knowledge no previous calculations have been made to estimate the potential impact of a flood burst on the generation of solitary waves. Using analogies of tsunamis generated by submarine landslides and ocean earthquakes, the amplitude of a Lake Agassiz generated tsunami is estimated to have been at least 2 m. Directionality considerations, as well as the effect of the Coriolis Force in the Northern Hemisphere, suggest that the resulting tsunami probably traveled 50-100 km along the west coast of the Labrador Sea, south of Hudson Strait where the outburst entered the ocean, before being dissipated. The erosional and depositional affects of historic and prehistoric tsunamis are present in the geological record, and provide guidance in seeking evidence for the Lake Agassiz flood burst and subsequent tsunami. This record may be found along the western coast of the Labrador Sea as well as along the shores of Hudson Strait.
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