My Secondment in Barcelona

Thomas Zengaffinen (ESR13) | @ ICM-CSIC Barcelona (1 February - 15 March 2020)

The last chapter of my PhD deals with the baseline for a probabilistic tsunami hazard analysis in the Gulf of Cadiz. A PTHA study reflects all possible events rather than only a worst-case scenario as it was done in the past. The tsunami sources are submarine landslides. In my previous chapters, I investigated the interaction between the landslide’s failure mechanics and wave generation in idealised settings and also in real events. This knowledge will help to conduct this last chapter.

The probabilistic framework involves parameter uncertainties. Geotechnical parameters like yield strength, its softening rate, and drag coefficients can be estimated from previous landslide modelling such as the Storegga Slide or the Grand Banks slump and landslide. However, these sediments had been glaciated, while the sediments in the Gulf of Cadiz were not. Therefore we will calibrate geotechnical parameters using the volume to runout ratio relationship from the landslide catalogue of the Gulf of Cadiz. This landslide catalogue is been developed by ESR14 student, William Meservy.

The volume to runout ratio relationship is far from a perfect fit. A possible reason for this is the involvement of all different landslides with different geometrical representations, be it the initial landslide shape or sea floor shape where the landslide evolved. This makes it a challenge to calibrate our geotechnical model parameters. A way to tackle this problem is to analyse the type of landslide and its initial shape. This information can be retrieved from the landslide catalogue. Altogether, this work is an important basis for a PTHA in the Gulf of Cadiz.

Apart from science, I was curious to learn about Catalan culture. ESR students, Davide Mencaroni, Johnny Ford, William Meservy, Stefano Collico, other friendly colleagues from the Institute of Marine Sciences ICM, and my two flatmates, Ana Leblanc and Ramon Bascompte, introduced me into the Catalan culture. Thank you for these great times. Unfortunately, around midtime of my secondment, we got limited to exploit the Catalan culture and even working at the institute due to the tragic worldwide Covid-19 outbreak. Thus, with the agreement with my supervisors and the project leader, I paused my secondment and flew back home straight into a two-week quarantine.


  • ICM – CSIC Barcelona, ESP