Diverse rupture modes for surface-deforming upper-plate earthquakes in the southern Puget Lowland of Washington State

TitleDiverse rupture modes for surface-deforming upper-plate earthquakes in the southern Puget Lowland of Washington State
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsNelson, AR, Personius, SF, Sherrod, BL, Kelsey, HM, Johnson, SY, Bradley, L-A, Wells, RE
Date PublishedJan-01-2014

Earthquake prehistory of the southern Puget Lowland, in the north-south compressive regime of the migrating Cascadia forearc, reflects diverse earthquake rupture modes with variable recurrence. Stratigraphy and Bayesian analyses of previously reported and new 14C ages in trenches and cores along backthrust scarps in the Seattle fault zone restrict a large earthquake to 1040–910 cal yr B.P. (2σ), an interval that includes the time of the M 7–7.5 Restoration Point earthquake. A newly identified surface-rupturing earthquake along the Waterman Point backthrust dates to 940–380 cal yr B.P., bringing the number of earthquakes in the Seattle fault zone in the past 3500 yr to 4 or 5. Whether scarps record earthquakes of moderate (M 5.5–6.0) or large (M 6.5–7.0) magnitude, backthrusts of the Seattle fault zone may slip during moderate to large earthquakes every few hundred years for periods of 1000–2000 yr, and then not slip for periods of at least several thousands of years. Four new fault scarp trenches in the Tacoma fault zone show evidence of late Holocene folding and faulting about the time of a large earthquake or earthquakes inferred from widespread coseismic subsidence ca. 1000 cal yr B.P.; 12 ages from 8 sites in the Tacoma fault zone limit the earthquakes to 1050–980 cal yr B.P. Evidence is too sparse to determine whether a large earthquake was closely predated or postdated by other earthquakes in the Tacoma basin, but the scarp of the Tacoma fault was formed by multiple earthquakes. In the northeast-striking Saddle Mountain deformation zone, along the western limit of the Seattle and Tacoma fault zones, analysis of previous ages limits earthquakes to 1200–310 cal yr B.P. The prehistory clarifies earthquake clustering in the central Puget Lowland, but cannot resolve potential structural links among the three Holocene fault zones.