Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami Hazards

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Alaska has more large earthquakes than the rest of the United States combined. More than three-quarters of the state’s population live in an area that can experience a magnitude 7 earthquake. Our research provides objective science that helps stakeholders prepare for and mitigate the effects of future earthquakes and tsunamis, which bolsters the economic health and well-being of Alaska and the Nation. The Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami Hazards team conducts field-based research to understand how, where, and why earthquakes and tsunamis occur in Alaska. Our research examines earthquake hazards that contribute to societal risk in Alaska and beyond, including earthquake ground motion, fault slip, surface deformation, landslides and liquefaction triggered by strong ground shaking, and tsunamis.

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2018 Anchorage Earthquake -- Overflight Photo 3 - 12/03/18

Debris avalanches on bluffs composed of glacial outwash sediment along the Eklutna River.
(Credit: Rob Witter, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain.)

Our research team examines major fault systems in Alaska capable of generating large earthquakes, including the Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone, the Denali Fault system, and the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault system. Many active faults in Alaska are capable of generating large tsunamis that threaten coastal communities in Alaska and beyond. For example, seafloor deformation during historic Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone earthquakes has generated tsunamis that traveled across the Pacific Ocean and impacted densely populated coasts around the Pacific Rim including Hawaii and the mainland U.S. west coast. The Denali Fault and other active faults in Alaska encroach on populated areas and critical infrastructure, including existing and proposed oil and natural gas pipelines. Our investigation of these fault systems reveals the location, magnitude, and frequency of prehistoric earthquakes and tsunamis, and informs probabilistic assessments that forecast future hazards.

The Alaska Earthquake Hazards Project research equips Alaska and Pacific Rim stakeholders and communities with vital information to improve earthquake and tsunami resilience. Remote but fast-moving faults such as the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault system represent scientific frontier areas, where study improves understanding of earthquake processes that occur on slower-moving faults near densely populated urban centers in the contiguous U.S.

 

Characterizing the Active Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault System  

Alaska-Aleutian Subduction Zone Studies

Alaska Seismic Hazard Map

 

Recently Completed Research:

  • Denali Fault Paleoseismology
  • Denali Fault Slip Rate