Ground penetrating radar examination of thin tsunami beds - A case study from Phra Thong Island, Thailand

Chris Gouramanis, Adam D. Switzer*, Peter M. Polivka, Charles S. Bristow, Kruawun Jankaew, Pham T. Dat, Jeremy Pile, Charles M. Rubin, Lee Yingsin, Sorvigenaleon R. Ildefonso, Harry M. Jol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Coastal overwash deposits from tsunamis and storms have been identified and characterised from many coastal environments. To date, these investigations have utilised ad-hoc time, energy and cost intensive invasive techniques, such as, pits and trenches or taking core samples. Here, we present the application of high-frequency ground penetrating radar (GPR) to identify and characterise the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami (IOT) and palaeotsunami deposits from Phra Thong Island, Thailand. This site is one of the most intensively studied palaeotsunami sites globally and preserves a series of late-Holocene stacked sandy tsunami deposits within an organic, muddy low-energy backbeach environment. Using 100, 500 and 1000. MHz GPR antennas, 29 reflection profiles were collected from two swales (X and Y) inland of the modern beach, and two common mid-point (CMP) profiles using the 200. MHz antennas were collected from Swale Y. Detailed examination of the CMPs allowed accurate velocity estimates to be applied to each profile. The reflection profiles included across-swale profiles and a high-resolution grid in Swale X, and were collected to investigate the feasibility of GPR to image the palaeotsunami deposits, and two profiles from Swale Y where the tsunami deposits are poorly known. The 500. MHz antennas provided the best stratigraphic resolution which was independently validated from the stratigraphy and sedimentology recovered from 17 auger cores collected along the profiles. It is clear from the augers and GPR data, that the different dielectric properties of the individual layers allow the identification of the IOT and earlier tsunami deposits on Phra Thong Island. Although applied in a coastal setting here, this technique can be applied to other environments where thin sand beds are preserved, in order to prioritise sites for detailed examination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-165
Number of pages17
JournalSedimentary Geology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


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