Differences in coastal subsidence in southern Oregon (USA) during at least six prehistoric megathrust earthquakes

TitleDifferences in coastal subsidence in southern Oregon (USA) during at least six prehistoric megathrust earthquakes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsMilker, Y, Nelson, AR, Horton, BP, Engelhart, SE, Bradley, L-A, Witter, RC
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Pagination143 - 163
Date PublishedJan-06-2016
KeywordsCascadia subduction zone, Coseismic subsidence, Megathrust earthquakes, Paleoseismology, Salt-marsh foraminifera, Sea-level change, Transfer functions

Stratigraphic, sedimentologic (including CT 3D X-ray tomography scans), foraminiferal, and radiocarbon analyses show that at least six of seven abrupt peat-to-mud contacts in cores from a tidal marsh at Talbot Creek (South Slough, Coos Bay), record sudden subsidence (relative sea-level rise) during great megathrust earthquakes at the Cascadia subduction zone. Data for one contact are insufficient to infer whether or not it records a great earthquake—it may also have formed through local, non-seismic, hydrographic processes. To estimate the amount of subsidence marked by each contact, we expanded a previous regional modern foraminiferal dataset to 174 samples from six Oregon estuaries. Using a transfer function derived from the new dataset, estimates of coseismic subsidence across the six earthquake contacts vary from 0.31 m to 0.75 m. Comparison of subsidence estimates for three contacts in adjacent cores shows within-site differences of ≤0.10 m, about half the ±0.22 m error, although some estimates may be minimums due to uncertain ecological preferences for Balticammina pseudomacrescens in brackish environments and almost monospecific assemblages of Miliammina fusca on tidal flats. We also account for the influence of taphonomic processes, such as infiltration of mud with mixed foraminiferal assemblages into peat, on subsidence estimates. Comparisons of our subsidence estimates with values for correlative contacts at other Oregon sites suggest that some of our estimates are minimums and that Cascadia's megathrust earthquake ruptures have been heterogeneous over the past 3500 years.