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The liquefaction record of past earthquakes in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone, Eastern United States

June 2, 2021

Following the 2011 moment magnitude, M">MM 5.7 Mineral, Virginia, earthquake, we conducted a search for paleoliquefaction features and found 41 sand dikes, sand sills, and soft‐sediment deformation features at 24 sites exposed in cutbanks along several rivers: (1) the South Anna River, where paleoliquefaction features were found in the epicentral area of the Mineral earthquake and farther downstream to the southeast; (2) the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers east of the Fall Line, where liquefiable sediments are more common than in the epicentral area; and (3) the James River and Rivanna River–Stigger Creek, where a few sand dikes were found in the 1990s. Liquefaction features are grouped into two age categories based on dating of host sediment in which they occur and weathering characteristics of the features. A younger generation of features that formed during the past 350 yr are small, few in number, and appear to be limited to the James and Pamunkey Rivers. Though there are large uncertainties in their locations and magnitudes, one or more preinstrumental earthquakes, including the 1758, 1774, and 1875 events, likely caused these features. An older generation of liquefaction features that formed between 350 and 2800 yr ago are larger, more numerous, and more broadly distributed than the younger generation of features. Several earthquakes could account for the regional distribution of paleoliquefaction features, including one event of M">MM 6.25–6.5 near Holly Grove, or two events of M">MM 6.0 near Mineral and M">MM 6.25 near Ashland. Amplification of ground motions in Coastal Plain sediment might have contributed to liquefaction along the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers.

Publication Year 2021
Title The liquefaction record of past earthquakes in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone, Eastern United States
DOI 10.1785/0220200456
Authors Martitia P. Tuttle, Kathleen Dyer-Williams, Mark W. Carter, Steven L. Forman, Kathleen Tucker, Zamara Fuentes, Carlos Velez, Laurel Bauer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Seismological Research Letters
Index ID 70224608
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Florence Bascom Geoscience Center