The 11th March 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami inundated the low-lying Sendai Plain (Japan) more than 5. km inland leaving sand and mud deposits over most of the area. In order to establish the sources of the tsunami deposits and interpret processes of their sedimentation, samples were collected from the deposits, underlying soils and the beach along a shore-perpendicular transect and analysed for grain size, diatom assemblages and nannoliths. The fining-inland tsunami deposits consisted of poorly to moderately sorted medium to coarse sand within 2. km of the coastline and very poorly to poorly sorted mud farther inland. More specifically, there was a slight fining of the coarse to medium sand mode within the sandy deposits and an increased contribution of the coarse and very coarse silt fraction in the mud deposits. The tsunami deposits also exhibited vertical changes including fining upward and coupled coarsening-fining upward trends. Few diatoms were present in beach sediments, soils and tsunami deposits within 1. km of the coastline, while diatoms were more abundant farther inland. Diatom assemblages in the soil and tsunami deposits were similar and dominated by species typical of freshwater-brackish habitats, while no typically marine species were encountered. Nannoliths were generally absent in the studied sediments, except for few specimens. Our data indicate that there was probably no or only a very minor component of marine sediments transported onland by the tsunami. The sandy tsunami deposits within ~. 1. km of the coastline were mostly derived from beach and dune erosion. From 1 to 2. km landward the contribution of these sources decreased, while sources comprising local soil erosion and the entrainment of sediments from the Teizan-bori canal increased. Farther inland, local soil erosion was the major sediment source for the mud deposits. The tsunami deposits were most likely deposited during at least two inundations, mostly out from suspension resulting in an upward grain size fining trend. However, bed load deposition was also important in the sandy deposits as suggested by a common grain size upward coarsening, position on C-M diagrams and frequent horizontal lamination. The present study reveals that even very large tsunamis may not transport marine sediments onland and thus many commonly applied indicators of tsunami deposits based on the assumption of their offshore origin (marine diatoms, foraminifera, nannoliths, marine sediments) may be of limited use.
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