Using LiDAR to quantify uplift of shoreline angles during late Holocene earthquakes in northwest Washington

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Brian L Sherrod, USGS, Seattle, WA, United States
Three reverse faults in northwestern Washington – the Seattle, Tacoma, and Birch Bay faults – experienced late Holocene earthquakes. Warped intertidal platforms in the hanging wall of each fault formed broad anticlines as a result of deformation during these three earthquakes. Estimates of past deformation rely on differencing raised shoreline features and corresponding modern features. I utilized profiles of LiDAR digital elevation models to calculate prehistoric (647 profiles) and modern shoreline angles (507 profiles) and used these angles to quantify the shape and amount of deformation of each anticline. I calculated shoreline angle elevations by visually fitting lines to modern and uplifted intertidal surfaces and adjacent shoreline cliffs. The intersection of the two fitted lines is the shoreline angle. Mean elevations of modern shoreline angles for 6 shoreline areas in northern Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia (n=507) lie within 2-46 cm of mean tide level. Three additional shoreline areas in southern Puget Sound have modern shoreline angles closer to mean higher high water (within 22-88 cm) and lie in areas with less fetch and greater tidal range than sites in northern Puget Sound and the Straits of Georgia.

A M>7 earthquake ~1.1 ka on the Seattle fault lifted a broad platform cut on sedimentary rocks out of the intertidal zone. Profiles of the platform at three locations along the western end of the Seattle fault zone define an anticline 8-10 km wide (orthogonal to the fault) with a maximum uplift during the earthquake of ~5–8 m. Another large earthquake ~1.1 ka uplifted an intertidal platform along the western part of the Tacoma fault. The raised platform formed an anticline ~10 km wide (orthogonal to the fault) with a maximum uplift of ~5 m. An earthquake ~1.2 ka raised shorelines in the hanging wall of the Birch Bay fault above an anticline observed on seismic reflection profiles near Bellingham, WA. Only part of the anticline is expressed in raised shorelines because shoreline angles are not preserved in the northern limb of the anticline. Estimated width of the anticline is ~8 km with a maximum uplift of 2.5 m. Ongoing elastic half-space modeling is intended to match profiles of each raised shoreline in order to estimate fault geometries and earthquake magnitudes required to produce the observed uplift profiles.