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Revisiting the 1899 earthquakes of Yakutat Bay, Alaska

UTIG Seminars

Revisiting the 1899 earthquakes of Yakutat Bay, Alaska

Maureen Walton

Friday, 04 December, 10:30 p.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Seminar Conference Room, 10100 Burnet Road, Bldg 196-ROC, Austin, Texas 78758
Sean Gulick, UTIG

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image from Maureen Walton's talk

North of Yakutat Bay in southeastern Alaska, the subducting Yakutat Block intersects with the Fairweather transform fault system. A series of large earthquakes occurred in the region in September of 1899, including a Mw 8.2 event on 10 September that resulted in >14 m of coseismic uplift and a 6 m tsunami in Yakutat Bay. Despite recurrence risk of the 1899 or similar events in the region, the fault(s) that ruptured in 1899 remain unidentified. Previous efforts to map active Yakutat Bay faults carried out by Plafker and Thatcher (2008) used post-1899 bedrock uplift measurements to infer the location of potentially important structures, including the Esker Creek and Bancas Point thrusts. As measurement error was not assessed in their study, we revisit the uplift measurements by quantifying uncertainty; effects of glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), in particular, are significant. We also combine new seismic reflection data with existing topography, bathymetry, GPS, and satellite photo data to update earlier fault maps. Our reevaluation of uplift measurements suggests that primary slip and uplift during the 10 September earthquake was limited to northwest of Yakutat Bay. Additionally, a high-resolution seismic reflection survey we conducted in Yakutat Bay during August 2012 constrains faulting to on- or near-shore based on the absence of bay-crossing faults. Collectively, our results imply that predominantly strike-slip and transpressive horsetail-type faults are southeast of Yakutat Bay, with compressional structures related to Yakutat Block subduction/collision to the northwest. We interpret the 10 September 1899 event to be the result of complex rupture somewhere within the Yakutat subduction/collision system. Based on our updated map of coseismic uplift and fault structure, we favor a rupture model where primary slip occurred along the Esker Creek system locally with possible induced coseismic slip along the neighboring Boundary transpressive fault system.