Diatom-based reconstructions of earthquake-induced paleoenvironmental change in coastal Alaska and Washington, USA

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Virginia Tech


Great (Mw >8.5) earthquakes occur over long temporal intervals that extend beyond current historical (written and oral) records along most subduction zone coastlines often leading to the underestimation of magnitude, recurrence, and spatial extent of these events. Paleoseismic studies target low energy depositional environments that record primary and secondary evidence of earthquake occurrence within the coastal stratigraphy over much longer temporal scale, thus improving our understanding of the behavior of subduction zone earthquakes. Diatoms preserved within coastal stratigraphic records are sensitive to earthquake-induced environmental change and are useful bioindicators in paloesiesmology studies. The two studies in this dissertation employ diatoms to create novel approaches to investigate behavior and recurrence of earthquakes along two subductions zones: Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone and the Cascadia subduction zone. In these chapters we use diatoms to explore 1) the potential for combined slip along the Patton Bay splay fault system and the eastern Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone within Prince William Sound, Alaska, and 2) lacustrine turbidite source mechanisms in Ozette Lake, Washington to potentially improve the spatial and temporal earthquake record for the northern Cascadia subduction zone. This work has implications for improving our earthquake chronologies along subduction zone coastlines and making important contributions to coastal hazards assessments.



diatoms, subduction zone, earthquake, paleoseismology, paleoecology