A history of Pacific Northwest earthquakes recorded in Holocene sediments from Lake Washington

TitleA history of Pacific Northwest earthquakes recorded in Holocene sediments from Lake Washington
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsKarlin, RE, Abella, SEB
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth
Date PublishedMar 10
Accession NumberWOS:A1996UA37200053

Large earthquakes can trigger slumping of the steep walls of lake basins and landslides in the drainage area, resulting in turbidite deposition in the lake and increased detrital flux from inlets. Holocene sediments in piston cores from Lake Washington contain a series of terrigenous layers that were episodically deposited in the lake. Sedimentological, geochemical, and paleomagnetic analyses on nine piston cores show that the detrital layers are temporally and areally correlatable, indicating basinwide disruptions. These layers are opaque on X-radiographs, are coincident with magnetic susceptibility peaks, have abundant aluminosilicate minerals, are relatively coarse grained, and have low organic carbon and biogenic silica contents. The thicknesses and geographic distributions of the layers suggest that they are not due to floods or delta destabilization. Side scan swath imagery and subbottom profiling show that large slumps, subaqueous landslides, and debris flows are common along the margins of the lake. A detailed chronology, established from 21 radiocarbon ages on five cores, show that a prominent turbidite was deposited about 1000-1100 years ago. This turbidite apparently was triggered by a large earthquake that probably occurred on the Seattle fault. Other depositional events in the sediment record at 1500-1700, 2400-2500, and 2800-3200 years ago coincide with periods of landsliding that have been previously inferred from the dating of drowned trees in the lake. More than 30 depositional events have occurred in the last 12,000 years and 21 disturbances have occurred since the deposition of the Mazama ash about 7,600 years ago. If all the events are due to earthquakes, the Puget Sound region has been subject to major shaking every 300 to 400 years. The strong intensities needed to trigger subaqueous slides may not be generated by just local sources such as the Seattle fault but could also be caused by great subduction earthquakes occurring along the coast.