Tsunamigenic Potential of an Incipient Submarine Landslide in the Tiran Straits

Sam J. Purkis*, Steven N. Ward, Hannah Shernisky, Giovanni Chimienti, Arash Sharifi, Fabio Marchese, Francesca Benzoni, Mattie Rodrigue, Maureen E. Raymo, Ameer Abdulla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The Red Sea is a maritime rift. Tsunamigenic submarine landslides are common in these deep, steep-sided, and seismically active basins. Because the rift is narrow, tsunami formed on one margin dissipate little before impacting the opposite side. Red Sea slope failures are therefore especially hazardous. We examine the tsunamigenic potential of an incipient landslide in the Tiran Straits that started, but then stopped after a short distance. Radiometric and biotic analyses fix the age of this landslide to within the last 500 years. Tsunami modeling of the incipient slide predicts ∼10 m wave heights on the Egyptian coastline. Of present concern is that the slope will eventually slide to completion with even more hazardous results. Tsunami simulated for this future event are twice as large as that generated by the incipient slide, so the threat posed by a future slide is consequential. Sharm El Sheikh, an Egyptian resort town now lies in its path, as does “The Line,” a vast Saudi infrastructure project. This study warns of credible tsunami risk in the rapidly urbanizing Tiran Straits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GL097493
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 28 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors owe a debt of gratitude to our Saudi Arabian partners, Neom, and to Paul Marshall, in particular, for facilitating the Deep Blue expedition. They are similarly indebted to the OceanXplorer crew, through the generosity of Mark Dalio, for their inexhaustible help in the field. Special thanks go to Colleen Peters for her commitment to acquiring excellent multibeam, to Andrew Craig and his crew for seamless ROV ops, and to Buck Taylor and his exceptional team of submersible pilots who safely collected samples despite high seas, strong currents, and demanding scientists. The authors are grateful to Simon Day for his advice on bracketing the timing of the slide and to two anonymous reviewers for their insightful critique. G. Chimienti was supported by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (PON 2014–2020, Grant AIM 1807508‐1, Linea 1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. The Authors.


  • geohazard
  • Gulf of Aqaba
  • submarine landslide
  • Tiran Straits
  • tsunami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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