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Unravelling a 2300 year long sedimentary record of megathrust and intraslab earthquakes in proglacial Skilak Lake, south-central Alaska

February 21, 2022

Seismic hazards in subduction settings typically arise from megathrust, intraslab and crustal earthquake sources. Despite the frequent occurrence of intraslab earthquakes in subduction zones and their potential threat to communities, their long-term recurrence behaviour is barely studied. Sedimentary sequences in lakes may register ground shaking from different seismic sources. This study investigates two long sediment cores (13 m and 16 m) from Skilak Lake, a proglacial lake in south-central Alaska, to evaluate whether different seismic sources leave a distinct imprint. The sedimentary record shows a continuously varved sediment sequence, occasionally interrupted by turbidites, slump deposits and tephra beds. Turbidites and slump deposits were objectively identified using a statistical outlier analysis on varve thickness. The earthquake origin of these deposits was ascertained by resemblance with deposits induced by instrumentally recorded earthquakes (for example, 1964 ce Mw 9.2 megathrust and 1954 ce Mw 6.4 intraslab earthquakes) and correlation with multiple coeval landslide deposits on sub-bottom profiles. The Skilak Lake record chronicles 19 earthquakes with moderate to very high confidence level in the past 1350 years. The sedimentary evidence of instrumentally-recorded intraslab and megathrust earthquakes within the past 70 years demonstrates that not only megathrust earthquakes, but also past intraslab events are recorded. Although reported seismic intensities at Skilak Lake are comparable for the 1964 ce megathrust and the 1954 ce intraslab earthquakes, the long duration and low frequency content of seismic ground motion during megathrust earthquakes facilitate the triggering of multiple, voluminous landslides and the generation of megaturbidites. In contrast, the shorter duration and higher frequency source spectrum of intraslab earthquakes may only induce surficial slope remobilization and the generation of thinner turbidites. This study demonstrates that the sedimentary record of Skilak Lake has the potential to decipher multiple seismic sources, which opens possibilities for a comprehensive seismic hazard analysis for south-central Alaska.

Publication Year 2022
Title Unravelling a 2300 year long sedimentary record of megathrust and intraslab earthquakes in proglacial Skilak Lake, south-central Alaska
DOI 10.1111/sed.12986
Authors Nore Praet, Maarten Van Daele, Jasper Moernaut, Thomas Mestdagh, Thomas Vandorpe, Britta J.L. Jensen, Robert C. Witter, Peter J. Haeussler, Marc De Batist
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Sedimentology
Index ID 70237759
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals