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Paleoseismic potential of sublacustrine landslide records in a high-seismicity setting (south-central Alaska)

February 1, 2017

Sublacustrine landslide stratigraphy is considered useful for quantitative paleoseismology in low-seismicity settings. However, as the recharging of underwater slopes with sediments is one of the factors that governs the recurrence of slope failures, it is not clear if landslide deposits can provide continuous paleoseismic records in settings of frequent strong shaking. To test this, we selected three lakes in south-central Alaska that experienced a strong historical megathrust earthquake (the 1964 Mw9.2 Great Alaska Earthquake) and exhibit high sedimentation rates in their main basins (0.2 cm yr− 1–1.0 cm yr− 1). We present high-resolution reflection seismic data (3.5 kHz) and radionuclide data from sediment cores in order to investigate factors that control the establishment of a reliable landslide record. Seismic stratigraphy analysis reveals the presence of several landslide deposits in the lacustrine sedimentary infill. Most of these landslide deposits can be attributed to specific landslide events, as multiple landslide deposits sourced from different lacustrine slopes occur on a single stratigraphic horizon. We identify numerous events in the lakes: Eklutna Lake proximal basin (14 events), Eklutna Lake distal basin (8 events), Skilak Lake (7 events) and Kenai Lake (7 events). The most recent event in each basin corresponds to the historic 1964 megathrust earthquake. All events are characterized by multiple landslide deposits, which hints at a regional trigger mechanism, such as an earthquake (the synchronicity criterion). This means that the landslide record in each basin represents a record of past seismic events. Based on extrapolation of sedimentation rates derived from radionuclide dating, we roughly estimate a mean recurrence interval in the Eklutna Lake proximal basin, Eklutna Lake distal basin, Skilak Lake and Kenai Lake, at ~ 250 yrs., ~ 450 yrs., ~ 900 yrs. and ~ 450 yrs., respectively. This distinct difference in recording can be explained by variations in preconditioning factors like slope angle, slope recharging (sedimentation rate) and the sediment source area: faster slope recharging and a predominance of delta and alluvial fan failures, increase the sensitivity and lower the intensity threshold for slope instability. Also, the seismotectonic setting of the lakes has to be taken into account. This study demonstrates that sublacustrine landslides in several Alaskan lakes can be used as reliable recorders of strong earthquake shaking, when a multi-lake approach is used, and can enhance the temporal and spatial resolution of the paleoseismic record of south-central Alaska.

Publication Year 2017
Title Paleoseismic potential of sublacustrine landslide records in a high-seismicity setting (south-central Alaska)
DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2016.05.004
Authors Nore Praet, Jasper Moernaut, Maarten Van Daele, Evelien Boes, Peter J. Haeussler, Michael Strupler, Sabine Schmidt, Michael G. Loso, Marc De Batist
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Geology
Index ID 70189149
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals