Our paleotsunami surveys of the southern Java coast led to the discovery of five imbricate coastal boulder fields near Pacitan, Indonesia that may date to the mid-to-late 19th century or prior and two similar fields at Pantai Papuma and Pantai Pasir Putih that were tsunami-emplaced during the 1994 7.9 Mw event in East Java. Estimated ages for the fields near Pacitan are based on historical records and radiocarbon analyses of coral boulders. The largest imbricated boulders in fields near Pacitan and in East Java are similar in size (approximately 3 m^3) and are primarily composed of platy beachrock dislodged from the intertidal platform during one or several unusually powerful wave impactions. Hydrodynamic wave height reconstructions of the accumulations near Pacitan indicate the boulders were likely tsunami rather than storm-wave emplaced, as the size of the storm waves needed to do so is not viable. We evaluate the boulders as an inverse problem, using their reconstructed wave heights and ComMIT tsunami modeling to suggest a minimum 8.4 Mw earthquake necessary to dislodge and emplace the largest boulders near Pacitan assuming they were all deposited during the same tsunami event and that the rupture source was located along the Java Trench south of Pacitan. A combined analysis of historical records of Java earthquakes and plate motion measurements indicates a seismic gap with >25 m of slip deficit along the Java Trench. A 1000-1500 km rupture along the subduction interface of this segment is capable of producing a 9.0-9.3 Mw megathrust earthquake and a giant tsunami. However, evidence for past megathrust earthquake events along the this trench remains elusive. We use epicenter independent tsunami modelling to estimate wave heights and inundation along East Java in the event that the trench were to fully rupture. By translocating ComMIT slip parameters of Japan's 2011 9.1 Mw event along the trench offshore East Java, we demonstrate possible wave heights in excess of 20 m at various locations along its southern coasts. Approximately 300,000-500,000 people in low-lying coastal communities on the southern coasts of East Java could be directly affected. We recommend at-risk communities practice the "20/20/20 principle" of tsunami hazard awareness and evacuation.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Tsunami; imbricate; boulder; earthquake; hazard; tsunami modelling; wave height; Java; Indonesia; Pacitan; East Java; beachrock; Bali; inundation; runup; Sunda trench; Java trench



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Geology Commons