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Revisiting the 1899 earthquake series using integrative geophysical analysis in Yakutat Bay, Alaska

July 12, 2022

A series of large earthquakes in 1899 affected southeastern Alaska near Yakutat and Disenchantment Bays. The largest of the series, a M8.2 event on 10 September 1899, generated an ~12-m-high tsunami and as much as 14.4 m of coseismic uplift in Yakutat Bay, the largest coseismic uplift ever measured. Several complex fault systems in the area are associated with the Yakutat terrane collision with North America and the termination of the Fairweather strike-slip system, but because faults local to Yakutat Bay have been incompletely or poorly mapped, it is unclear which fault system(s) ruptured during the 10 September 1899 event. Using marine geophysical data collected in August 2012, we provide an improved tectonic framework for the Yakutat area, which advances our understanding of earthquake hazards. We combined 153 line km of 2012 high-resolution multichannel seismic (MCS) reflection data with compressed high-intensity radar pulse (Chirp) profiles, basin-scale MCS data, 2018 seafloor bathymetry, published geodetic models and thermochronology data, and previous measurements of coseismic uplift to better constrain fault geometry and subsurface structure in the Yakutat Bay area. We did not observe any active or concealed faults crossing Yakutat Bay in our high-resolution data, requiring faults to be located entirely onshore or nearshore. We interpreted onshore faults east of Yakutat Bay to be associated with the transpressional termination of the Fairweather fault system, forming a series of splay faults that exhibit a horsetail geometry. Thrust and reverse faults on the west side of the bay are related to Yakutat terrane underthrusting and collision with North America. Our results include an updated fault map, structural model of Yakutat Bay, and quantitative assessment of uncertainties for legacy geologic coseismic uplift measurements. Additionally, our results indicate the 10 September 1899 rupture was possibly related to stress loading from the earlier Yakutat terrane underthrusting event of 4 September 1899, with the majority of 10 September coseismic slip occurring on the Esker Creek system on the northwest side of Yakutat Bay. Limited (~2 m) coseismic or postseismic slip associated with the 1899 events occurred on faults located east of Yakutat Bay.

Publication Year 2022
Title Revisiting the 1899 earthquake series using integrative geophysical analysis in Yakutat Bay, Alaska
DOI 10.1130/GES02423.1
Authors Maureen A. L. Walton, Sean P.S. Gulick, Peter J. Haeussler
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geosphere
Index ID 70233556
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals; Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center