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Reproducibility and variability of earthquake subsidence estimates from saltmarshes of a Cascadia estuary

August 2, 2022

We examine fossil foraminiferal assemblages from 20 sediment cores to assess sudden relative sea-level (RSL) changes across three mud-over-peat contacts at three salt marshes in northern Humboldt Bay, California (~44.8°N, -124.2°W). We use a validated foraminiferal-based Bayesian transfer function to evaluate the variability of subsidence stratigraphy at a range of 30-6000 m across an estuary. We use the consistency in RSL reconstructions to support estimates of coseismic subsidence from megathrust earthquakes. To assess the variability of subsidence estimates, we analyzed: nine examples of the 1700 CE earthquake (average of 0.64 ±0.14 m subsidence; range of 0.24 ±0.27 to 1.00 ±0.44 m), five examples of the ca. 875 cal a BP earthquake (average of 0.43 ±0.16 m; range of 0.41 ±0.36 to 0.48 ±0.39 m), and six examples of the ca. 1120 cal a BP earthquake (average of 0.70±0.18 m; range of 0.47 ±0.36 to 0.80 ±0.49 m). Our subsidence estimate results suggest ~±0.3 m of within-site (intra-site) variability, which is consistent with previous research. We also identify inconsistencies between sites (inter-site) at northern Humboldt Bay greater than one-sigma uncertainties, driven by variable foraminiferal assemblages in the mud overlying the 1700 CE subsidence contact. Therefore, we recommend at least two quantitative microfossil reconstructions across the same stratigraphic sequence from different marsh sites within an estuary to account for estimate variability and provide increased confidence in vertical coseismic deformation estimates. Our results have broad implications for quantitative, microfossil-based reconstructions of coseismic subsidence at temperate coastlines globally.

Publication Year 2022
Title Reproducibility and variability of earthquake subsidence estimates from saltmarshes of a Cascadia estuary
DOI 10.1002/jqs.3446
Authors Jason Scott Padgett, Simon E. Engelhart, Harvey M. Kelsey, Robert C. Witter, Niamh Cahill
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Quaternary Science
Index ID 70234147
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center; Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center