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Mudflow generated by retrogressive slope failure, Santa Barbara Basin, California continental borderland

January 2, 1995

The morphology and internal geometry of a mudflow deposit on the mainland slope of the Santa Barbara Basin are defined using high-resolution seismic-reflection data in combination with core samples. Sediment failure occurred on a 4 degrees slope in the uppermost part of late Quaternary well-bedded slope deposits. The failure zone extends from water depths of 374-510 m near the base of slope, occupies an area of 4 km 2 , and involved the translation of 0.01-0.02 km 3 of sediment. Major geomorphic features of the mudflow deposit include a headscarp 6-8 m high, a scar 50-700 m wide, and a main body 1 km long and 12 m thick. The hummocky surface of the mudflow deposits, their chaotic internal structure, and the bulbous toe tapering upslope to a thin tail are consistent with mass flow involving extensive internal deformation. Sediment failed in stages, ending with upslope retrogressive retreat of the headwall along the east side of the failure zone. Known sedimentation rates of 0.8-1.4 m/k.y., as well as the presence of a thin (0.15-0.5 m thick) sediment cap resting atop the scar surface, indicate that the failure probably occurred within the past few centuries. A geotechnical analysis incorporating the results of both static and dynamic triaxial strength tests shows that the failure was probably caused by a strong (M nearly equal 7.5) nearby earthquake. The weakened sediment that remained after earthquake shaking continued to flow down the gentle basin slope under the stresses generated by gravity alone. The analysis also shows that much of the slope sediment is marginally stable and that additional mudflows will probably occur during future strong seismic shaking.

Publication Year 1995
Title Mudflow generated by retrogressive slope failure, Santa Barbara Basin, California continental borderland
DOI 10.1306/D4268022-2B26-11D7-8648000102C1865D
Authors Brian D. Edwards, Homa J. Lee, Michael E. Field
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Sedimentary Research
Index ID 70248332
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse