Submergence and Uplift Associated to Paleoearthquakes in the Northern Sunda Subduction System: Implications for Future Earthquakes.
Abstract:Recent studies documented that the northern part of the Sunda subduction zone ruptured several times in the past 1500 years including one in 1762. To better understand megathrust surface ruptures and the hazards associated to them, we surveyed the SE coast of Bangladesh along the Teknaf peninsula and the Saint Martin anticline by dating coral microatolls of Porites lutea species by the U-Th dating method. Porites luteagrows a few centimeters below the low tide level creating a 5-12 mm thick skeletal band per year, which makes them a good indicator of relative sea level change that might be caused during tectonic submergence and uplift. U-Th ages were obtained from coral slabs and their growth bands interpreted from x-rays. The corals and marine terraces uplift were measured with high precision RTK GPS and modeled with high resolution DEM.
The coral microatolls along the St. Martin anticline were dated to be ~ 250, 800 and 1300 years old. Since storm and other climatic phenomenon cannot cause uplift, we interpret that 2.5 m uplift was caused by 1762 earthquake that killed the coral microatolls. The coral slabs show three growth interruptions, where skeletal growth bands continued to grow onlapping the older growth bands. These growth onlaps could be the result of smaller uplift events after 1762 that did not result in coral mortality. The subsidence history extracted from vertical growth of the slabs suggests that the island is submerging at a rate of 11 mm/year. Corals growing 250 m from the dead coral colony post date the 1762 earthquake. Today living Porites lutea can be found 2.5 m below the dead coral heads and 9 cm above the spring low tide.
The elevation of marine terraces (T1, T2 and T3) along the Teknaf coast is 2.5 m, 5-7 m and 11-13 m above sea level, respectively. A shell bed on top of T1 was dated at 1763 (dated by C14). This and the other two terraces could have been uplifted during the three earthquakes dated from coral microatolls. Considering the fact that this active subduction zone is converging at a rate of 13 mm/year and it ruptured several times in the recent past, this segment of the Sunda Subduction system could rupture again and cause a of 8.5 Mw earthquake which will be devastating for neighboring countries.