The Mw= 6.6 earthquake and tsunami of south Crete on 2020 May 2

Nikos Kalligeris*, Vassilios Skanavis, Nikolaos S. Melis, Emile A. Okal, Aggeliki Dimitroulia, Marinos Charalampakis, Patrick J. Lynett, Costas E. Synolakis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


On 2020 May 2, an Mw = 6.6 earthquake struck about 63 km south of Ierapetra in Crete, Greece. The earthquake generated a small tsunami which agitated local harbours. We studied this event in the context of earthquakes with seismic records in 1908, 1910, 1923, 1952, 2009 and 2013, all of similar magnitudes located south of Crete. Based on an energy-to-moment ratio, our analysis suggests that this event was neither slow nor fast, hence appropriate for using scaling laws to infer seafloor deformations. We also performed a field survey, three days after the event and present field observations from seven locations, including the island of Chrisi, where our highest measurement of 0.95 m was located. Runup along the coast of southern Crete ranged from 0.24 to 0.87 m. One tide gauge record is available for this event, and we did image analysis to obtain accurately timed water surface elevations from eyewitness videos and images. We undertook high-resolution hydrodynamic simulations using published moment tensor solutions to identify the source of the tsunami. Simulations were performed with two models, MOST (a nonlinear shallow water model) and COULWAVE (a Boussinesq-type model), to infer how different approximations of the parent equations of motion affect predictions for tsunamis of this size, which are fairly common in the Eastern Mediterranean and routinely trigger Tsunami Service Providers to issue warning messages. Based on the inter-model comparison, we conclude that the shallow-water equations are adequate in modelling this event at the distances considered, suggesting that such codes can be used to infer the tsunami source and to estimate tsunami impacts. Last, our field work revealed lack of knowledge of tsunami hazards, as most eyewitnesses remained near the waterfront, filming the associated unusual water motions instead of taking shelter on high ground.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-506
Number of pages27
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Earthquake source observations
  • Europe
  • Image processing
  • Numerical modelling
  • Tsunamis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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