Submarine mass wasting and associated tsunami risk offshore western Thailand, Andaman Sea, Indian Ocean
2-D seismic data from the top and the western slope of Mergui Ridge in water depths between 300 and 2200 m off the Thai west coast have been investigated in order to identify mass transport deposits (MTDs) and evaluate the tsunamigenic potential of submarine landslides in this outer shelf area. Based on our newly collected data, 17 mass transport deposits have been identified. Minimum volumes of individual MTDs range between 0.3 km 3 and 14 km 3. Landslide deposits have been identified in three different settings: (i) stacked MTDs within disturbed and faulted basin sediments at the transition of the East Andaman Basin to the Mergui Ridge; (ii) MTDs within a pile of drift sediments at the basin-ridge transition; and (iii) MTDs near the edge of/on top of Mergui Ridge in relatively shallow water depths (< 1000 m). Our data indicate that the Mergui Ridge slope area seems to have been generally unstable with repeated occurrence of slide events. We find that the most likely causes for slope instabilities may be the presence of unstable drift sediments, excess pore pressure, and active tectonics. Most MTDs are located in large water depths (> 1000 m) and/or comprise small volumes suggesting a small tsunami potential. Moreover, the recurrence rates of failure events seem to be low. Some MTDs with tsunami potential, however, have been identified on top of Mergui Ridge. Mass-wasting events that may occur in the future at similar locations may trigger tsunamis if they comprise sufficient volumes. Landslide tsunamis, emerging from slope failures in the working area and affecting western Thailand coastal areas therefore cannot be excluded, though the probability is very small compared to the probability of earthquake-triggered tsunamis, arising from the Sunda Trench.