Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth








The Baiyun slide complex contains geological evidence for some of the largest landslide ever discovered in the continental slopes of the South China Sea. High-resolution seismic data suggest that a variety of landslides with varied scales have occurred repeatedly in this area. The largest landslide reconstructed from bathymetric and seismic data has an estimated spatial coverage of ~5,500 km2 and a conservative volume of ~1,035 km3. Here, using geomorphological and geotechnical data, we construct a series of probable landslide scenarios and assess their tsunamigenic capacity. By treating the slides as deformable mudflows, we simulate the dynamics of landslide movements. The simulated landslide motions match the geophysical observations interpreted in previous studies. Particularly, we are able to reproduce the spatial distribution of observed runout, including the distance, shape, and deposit thickness, for the most credible slide scenario. We investigate tsunami impacts generated by different slide scenarios and highlight the importance of initial water depth, sliding direction, and nearshore bathymetry. The worst-case scenario is capable of producing basin-wide tsunami, with maximum wave amplitudes reaching ~5 m near Hong Kong and Macau, 1–3 m in western Philippines, and at least 1 m along central Vietnam, southeast Hainan, and southern Taiwan. The most noticeable phenomenon we observed is that the southern Chinese coast is the hardest-hit region in all the simulated scenarios regardless of the diverse slide features. We conclude that the persistence of high tsunami impact is caused by the unique bathymetric feature of the wide continental shelf in front of southern China.


An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2019 American Geophysical Union.

Original Publication Citation

Li, L., Shi, F., Ma, G., & Qiu, Q. (2019). Tsunamigenic potential of the Baiyun Slide Complex in the South China Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 124(8), 7680-7698. doi:10.1029/2019jb018062