Earthquake Control of Holocene Turbidite Frequency Confirmed by Hemipelagic Sedimentation Chronology on the Cascadia and Northern California Active Continental Margins


This paper analyzes recurrence times of Holocene turbidites as proxies for earthquakes on the Cascadia and northern California active margins of western Northern America. We compare the age, frequency, and recurrence time intervals of turbidites using two methods: (1) radiometric dating (14C method), and (2) relative dating, using hemipelagic sediment thickness and sedimentation rates (H method). The two approaches complement each other, and when used together provide a better age framework than 14C ages alone. Comparison of hemipelagic sediment thickness in several cores from the same site is used to evaluate the erosiveness of turbidity currents and improve the correlation of turbidites and consequent paleoseismic history based only on less complete and unrefined data sets of 14C turbidite ages along the continental margin. Chronology of hemipelagic sediment thickness provides (1) the best estimate of minimum recurrence times, which are the most important for seismic hazards risk analysis, and (2) the most complete dataset of recurrence times, which shows a normal distribution pattern for paleoseismic turbidite frequencies. We observe that on these tectonically active continental margins, during the sea-level highstand of Holocene time, triggering of turbidity currents is controlled dominantly by earthquakes, and paleoseismic turbidites have an average recurrence time of ~ 550 yr in northern Cascadia Basin and ~ 200 yr along northern California margin. This difference in frequency of turbidites in a subduction zone compared to a transform-fault margin suggests significant differences in earthquake activity that compare favorably with independent paleoseismic indicators.


Earth Sciences

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External Controls on Deep-Water Depositional Systems


SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology

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Book Chapter