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California deepwater investigations and groundtruthing (Cal DIG) I: Fault and shallow geohazard analysis offshore Morro Bay

November 30, 2021

The California Deepwater Investigations and Groundtruthing (Cal DIG) I project focuses on the potential seafloor hazards and impacts of alternative energy infrastructure in the outer continental shelf region offshore of south-central California. This is one of three reports covering a single study area located between Monterey and Point Conception, California in federal waters outside of the State of California three nautical mile limit and in water depths of 400 to 1500 meters. The goal of this report is to provide baseline geologic interpretations of the area for the purpose of improving regional models of shallow geologic hazards and sedimentary processes. Geophysical and geological data from this project will help to address important issues associated with marine spatial planning and potential offshore infrastructure development, such as offshore floating wind turbines. Datasets covered in this report include comprehensive high-resolution sub-bottom (multi-channel and Chirp seismic reflection profiles), seafloor (bathymetry), and sampling (piston, gravity, and vibracore) data collected in 2018-2019 during a series of seven seagoing geological and geophysical surveys. Specifically, this report outlines interpretation of subsurface geologic structure from the geophysical data, details preliminary core analysis results related to fluid, gas, and sediment transport activity, provides interpretations of the current geohazards in the area, and suggests next steps for improving interpretations of geohazard processes.

Specific targets of geohazard interest in the study area are geological structures such as faults and folds, seafloor pockmarks within a large field (the Big Sur pockmark field), submarine channels, and mass wasting (slope failure) features. The vast majority of faults and other structures in the study occur within sediment and rock formations we interpret to be pre-Quaternary (older than 2.58 Myr BP), and thus we interpret that these structures are unlikely to present significant current hazard to seabed infrastructure, although we note that the numerous structures mapped in the study area may have the potential to become reactivated. Similarly, we find no new evidence of Holocene (younger than 11,650 years BP) fluid or gas advection in the Big Sur pockmark field. However, such fluid and gas hazards are currently difficult to assess, as additional analyses and sampling of existing core data is needed to better understand pockmark formation processes and potential gas accumulations we have mapped in the subsurface. Mass wasting along the eastern and western edges of the Santa Lucia Bank during earthquakes, as well as sediment transport down the Lucia Chica and San Simeon channels, are among the most significant, although still likely infrequent during the Holocene, hazards to seabed stability in the study area. Further analyses of the existing cores, including radiocarbon dating, stable isotope, and compositional analyses, are again needed to better understand the timing and sources of the numerous sand deposits found throughout the study area, which may have been transported downslope due to mass wasting and/or earthquake shaking processes.

Publication Year 2021
Title California deepwater investigations and groundtruthing (Cal DIG) I: Fault and shallow geohazard analysis offshore Morro Bay
Authors Maureen A. L. Walton, Charlie K Paull, Guy R. Cochrane, Jason A. Addison, Roberto Gwiazda, Daniel J. Kennedy, Eve M. Lundsten, Antoinette Gabrielle Papesh
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Index ID 70227358
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center