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Late Holocene relative sea-level changes and the earthquake deformation cycle around upper Cook Inlet, Alaska

Hamilton, S.; Shennan, I.


S. Hamilton

I. Shennan


Multiple peat-silt couplets preserved in tidal marsh sediment sequences suggest that numerous great plate boundary earthquakes caused the coast around Cook Inlet, Alaska, to subside over the past 3500 years. Field and laboratory analyses of the two youngest couplets record the well-documented earthquake of AD 1964 and the penultimate one, approximately 850 cal yr BP. Diatom assemblages from a range of modern day estuarine environments from tidal flat through salt marsh to acidic bog produce quantitative diatom transfer function models for elevation reconstructions based on fossil samples. Only nine out of 124 fossil assemblages analysed, including previously published data for the AD 1964 earthquake, have a poor modern analogue. Calibration of fossil samples indicate co-seismic subsidence of 1.50±0.32 m for AD 1964, similar to measurements taken after the earthquake, and 1.45±0.34 m for the 850 cal yr BP earthquake. Elevation standard errors for individual fossil samples range from 0.08 m in peat layers to 0.35 m in silt units. Lack of a chronology within fossil silt units prevents identification of changes in the rate of recovery and land uplift between the post-seismic and inter-seismic periods. However, preservation of multiple peat-silt couplets indicates no net emergence over multiple earthquake cycles. Glacio-isostatic movements from Little Ice Age glacier advance and retreat explains a 0.15 m relative sea-level oscillation recorded within the peat layer subsequently submerged as a result of the AD 1964 earthquake. Before both this and the 850 cal yr BP earthquake, diatom assemblages suggest pre-seismic relative sea-level rise of 0.12±0.13 m, representing possible precursors to great earthquakes.


Hamilton, S., & Shennan, I. (2005). Late Holocene relative sea-level changes and the earthquake deformation cycle around upper Cook Inlet, Alaska. Quaternary Science Reviews, 24(12-13), 1479-1498.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2005-07
Deposit Date Apr 3, 2007
Journal Quaternary Science Reviews
Print ISSN 0277-3791
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 12-13
Pages 1479-1498