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A geomorphic-process-based cellular automata model of colluvial wedge morphology and stratigraphy

April 4, 2022

The development of colluvial wedges at the base of fault scarps following normal-faulting earthquakes serves as a sedimentary record of paleoearthquakes and is thus crucial in assessing seismic hazard. Although there is a large body of observations of colluvial wedge development, connecting this knowledge to the physics of sediment transport can open new frontiers in our understanding. To explore theoretical colluvial wedge evolution, we develop a cellular automata model driven by the production and disturbance (e.g., bioturbative reworking) of mobile regolith and fault-scarp collapse. We consider both 90 and 60 dipping faults and allow the colluvial wedges to develop over 2000 model years. By tracking sediment transport time, velocity, and provenance, we classify cells into analogs for the debris and wash sedimentary facies commonly described in paleoseismic studies. High values of mobile regolith production and disturbance rates produce relatively larger and more wash-facies-dominated wedges, whereas lower values produced relatively smaller, debris-facies-dominated wedges. Higher lateral collapse rates lead to more debris facies relative to wash facies. Many of the modeled colluvial wedges fully developed within 2000 model years after the earthquake, with many being much faster when process rates are high. Finally, for scenarios with the same amount of vertical displacement, differently sized colluvial wedges developed depending on the rates of geomorphic processes and fault dip. A change in these variables, say by environmental change such as precipitation rates, could theoretically result in different colluvial wedge facies assemblages for the same characteristic earthquake rupture scenario. Finally, the stochastic nature of collapse events, when coupled with high disturbance, illustrates that multiple phases of colluvial deposition are theoretically possible for a single earthquake event.

Publication Year 2022
Title A geomorphic-process-based cellular automata model of colluvial wedge morphology and stratigraphy
DOI 10.5194/esurf-10-329-2022
Authors Harrison J. Gray, Christopher DuRoss, Sylvia Nicovich, Ryan D. Gold
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Earth Surface Dynamics
Index ID 70243334
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center; Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center