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A comprehensive assessment of submarine landslides and mass wasting processes offshore southern California

March 4, 2024

It is critical to characterize submarine landslide hazards near dense coastal populations, especially in areas with active faults, which can trigger slope failure, subsequent tsunamis, and damage seabed infrastructure during earthquake shaking. Offshore southern California, numerous marine geophysical surveys have been conducted over the past decade, and high-resolution bathymetric and subsurface data now cover about 60 percent of the total region between Point Conception and the United States-Mexico border from the California coast out to the base of Patton Escarpment ∼200 km offshore. In a comprehensive compilation and interpretive mapping effort, we find evidence of seafloor failure throughout offshore southern California with nearly 1,500 submarine landslide-related features, including 63 discrete slide deposits with debris and >1,400 slide-related scarps. In our analysis, we highlight new mapping of submarine landslides in Catalina Basin, the Del Mar slide, the San Gabriel slide complex, and the 232 km2 San Nicolas slide, the largest area of any known submarine landslide mass offshore southern California. Analysis of the spatial distribution of submarine landslide features suggests that most mapped slide features are located relatively near coastal sediment sources, particularly during sea-level lowstand conditions, which underscores the importance of sediment supply and sediment accumulation on low-gradient slopes as failure preconditioning processes. Tectonically driven uplift at shelf edges and along basin flanks is another key preconditioning factor, and our results also suggest that earthquakes along active faults trigger mass wasting, especially for repeated, small-scale failures on tectonically steepened slopes.

Publication Year 2024
Title A comprehensive assessment of submarine landslides and mass wasting processes offshore southern California
DOI 10.1029/2023GC011258
Authors M. Walton, James E. Conrad, Antoinette Gabrielle Papesh, Daniel S. Brothers, Jared W. Kluesner, Mary McGann, Peter Dartnell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Index ID 70255003
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center