Characterizing the Active Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault System

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This research aims to better characterize the earthquake potential of the southern Fairweather Fault in order to provide more accurate fault source data for the USGS National Seismic Hazard Map. Our approach interrogates lidar data and satellite imagery, applies paleoseismological methods to examine earthquake history, and leverages partnerships with USGS scientists from Colorado and California, the National Park Service, NOAA, and the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

​​​Return to Geology >> Hazards >> Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami Hazards

The magnitude 7.8 Lituya Bay earthquake resulted from a 260-km long rupture of the Fairweather Fault in southeast Alaska, yet we know little about how often events of this size reoccur. Between 2012 and 2014, renewed seismic events on the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault system caused a series of moderate to large earthquakes, including the 2012 M7.8 Haida Gwaii earthquake, the 2013 M7.5 Craig earthquake and the 2014 M6.0 Palma Bay earthquake. The 2014 earthquake triggered an undersea slump that severed a fiber optic cable, which serves communities in the greater Gustavus-Juneau area, including the state capitol. We are conducting comprehensive onshore and offshore geologic and geophysical investigations to fully characterize the seismic potential of the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault system in southeast Alaska. Specifically, these investigations include (1) acquisition and interpretation of remotely sensed topographic data, including lidar, satellite imagery and legacy aerial photography; (2) mapping of tectonic geomorphology and active traces of the southern Fairweather Fault; and (3) investigation of earthquake recurrence intervals, slip-per-earthquake, and style of deformation through field investigations that include paleoseismic trenching where practicable.

3 maps of ocean floor off the west coast of Canada, and SE Alaska

Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault study area offshore the west coast of Canada, and Southeast Alaska . A: Red line is the QueenCharlotte-Fairweather Fault. Box indicates area of map C. B. Location map. C. Water depths offshore in study area.
​​​​​​​(Public domain.)