Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Limits to coseismic landslides triggered by Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes

October 2, 2022

Landslides are a significant hazard and dominant feature throughout the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. However, the hazard and risk posed by coseismic landslides triggered by great Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) earthquakes is highly uncertain due to a lack of local and global data. Despite a wealth of other geologic evidence for past earthquakes on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, no landslides have been definitively linked to such earthquakes, even in areas otherwise highly susceptible to failure. While shallow landslides may not leave a lasting topographical signature in the landscape, there are thousands of deep-seated landslides in Cascadia, and these deposits often persist for hundreds of years and multiple earthquake cycles. Synthesizing newly developed inventories of dated large deep-seated landslides in the Oregon Coast Range, we use statistical methods to estimate the proportion of these types of landslides that could have been triggered during past great Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes. Statistical analysis of high-precision dendrochronology ages of landslide-dammed lakes and surface roughness-dated bedrock landslides reveal Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes may have triggered 0–15 % of large deep-seated landslides in the Oregon Coast Range over multiple earthquake cycles. Our results refine estimates from previous studies and further suggest that coseismic triggering accounts for a small fraction of the total deep-seated bedrock landslides mapped in coastal Cascadia. However, if the real rate of coseismic landslide triggering during CSZ earthquakes is near our estimated upper bound for the 1700 CSZ earthquake, we estimate up to 2400 coseismic large deep-seated landslides could occur in the Oregon Coast Range in a single earthquake. These findings suggest Cascadia is consistent with global observations from other subduction zones and that coseismic landslides may still represent a serious geohazard in the region.

Publication Year 2022
Title Limits to coseismic landslides triggered by Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes
DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2022.108477
Authors Alex R. R. Grant, William Struble, Sean Richard LaHusen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geomorphology
Index ID 70247723
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center; Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center