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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2017-05-31
    Description: We provide an extensive high-resolution geophysical, sediment core, and radiocarbon dataset to address late Pleistocene and Holocene fault activity of the San Gregorio fault zone (SGFZ), offshore central California. The SGFZ occurs primarily offshore in the San Andreas fault system and has been accommodating dextral strike-slip motion between the Pacific and North American plates since the mid-Miocene. Our study focuses on the SGFZ where it has been mapped through the continental slope north of Monterey Canyon. From 2009 to 2015, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute collected high-resolution multibeam bathymetry and chirp sub-bottom profiles using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Targeted samples were collected using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to provide radiocarbon age constraints. We integrate the high-resolution geophysical data with radiocarbon dates to reveal Pleistocene seismic horizons vertically offset less than 5 m on nearly vertical faults. These faults are buried by continuous reflections deposited after ~17.5 ka and likely following erosion during the last sea-level lowstand ~21 ka, bracketing the age of faulting to ~32–21 ka. Clearly faulted horizons are only detected in a small area where mass wasting exhumed older strata to within ~25 m of the seafloor. The lack of clearly faulted Holocene deposits and possible highly distributed faulting in the study area are consistent with previous interpretations that late Pleistocene and Holocene activity along the SGFZ may decrease to the south. This study illustrates the complexity of the SGFZ, offshore central California, and demonstrates the utility of very high-resolution data from combined AUV (geophysical)–ROV (seabed sampling) surveys in offshore studies of fault activity.
    Print ISSN: 0037-1106
    Electronic ISSN: 1943-3573
    Topics: Geosciences , Physics
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  • 2
    Publication Date: 2018-05-23
    Description: The Queen Charlotte Fault defines the Pacific–North America transform plate boundary in western Canada and southeastern Alaska for c. 900 km. The entire length of the fault is submerged along a continental margin dominated by Quaternary glacial processes, yet the geomorphology along the margin has never been systematically examined due to the absence of high-resolution seafloor mapping data. Hence the geological processes that influence the distribution, character and timing of mass transport events and their associated hazards remain poorly understood. Here we develop a classification of the first-order shape of the continental shelf, slope and rise to examine potential relationships between form and process dominance. We found that the margin can be split into six geomorphic groups that vary smoothly from north to south between two basic end-members. The northernmost group (west of Chichagof Island, Alaska) is characterized by concave-upwards slope profiles, gentle slope gradients (〈6°) and relatively low along-strike variance, all features characteristic of sediment-dominated siliciclastic margins. Dendritic submarine canyon/channel networks and retrogressive failure complexes along relatively gentle slope gradients are observed throughout the region, suggesting that high rates of Quaternary sediment delivery and accumulation played a fundamental part in mass transport processes. Individual failures range in area from 0.02 to 70 km 2 and display scarp heights between 10 and 250 m. Transpression along the Queen Charlotte Fault increases southwards and the slope physiography is thus progressively more influenced by regional-scale tectonic deformation. The southernmost group (west of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia) defines the tectonically dominated end-member: the continental slope is characterized by steep gradients (〉20°) along the flanks of broad, margin-parallel ridges and valleys. Mass transport features in the tectonically dominated areas are mostly observed along steep escarpments and the larger slides (up to 10 km 2 ) appear to be failures of consolidated material along the flanks of tectonic features. Overall, these observations highlight the role of first-order margin physiography on the distribution and type of submarine landslides expected to occur in particular morphological settings. The sediment-dominated end-member allows for the accumulation of under-consolidated Quaternary sediments and shows larger, more frequent slides; the rugged physiography of the tectonically dominated end-member leads to sediment bypass and the collapse of uplifted tectonic features. The maximum and average dimensions of slides are an order of magnitude smaller than those of slides observed along other (passive) glaciated margins. We propose that the general patterns observed in slide distribution are caused by the interplay between tectonic activity (long- and short-term) and sediment delivery. The recurrence (〈100 years) of M 〉 7 earthquakes along the Queen Charlotte Fault may generate small, but frequent, failures of under-consolidated Quaternary sediments within the sediment-dominated regions. By contrast, the tectonically dominated regions are characterized by the bypass of Quaternary sediments to the continental rise and the less frequent collapse of steep, uplifted and consolidated sediments.
    Print ISSN: 0305-8719
    Electronic ISSN: 2041-4927
    Topics: Geosciences
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  • 3
    Publication Date: 2018-05-26
    Description: Multibeam echosounder (MBES) images, 3.5 kHz seismic-reflection profiles and piston cores obtained along the southern Queen Charlotte Fault Zone are used to map and date mass-wasting events at this transform margin – a seismically active boundary that separates the Pacific Plate from the North American Plate. Whereas the upper continental slope adjacent to and east (upslope) of the fault zone offshore of the Haida Gwaii is heavily gullied, few large-sized submarine landslides in this area are observed in the MBES images. However, smaller submarine seafloor slides exist locally in areas where fluid flow appears to be occurring and large seafloor slides have recently been detected at the base of the steep continental slope just above its contact with the abyssal plain on the Queen Charlotte Terrace. In addition, along the subtle slope re-entrant area offshore of the Dixon Entrance shelf bathymetric data suggest that extensive mass wasting has occurred in the vicinity of an active mud volcano venting gas. We surmise that the relative lack of submarine slides along the upper slope in close proximity to the Queen Charlotte Fault Zone may be the result of seismic strengthening (compaction and cohesion) of a sediment-starved shelf and slope through multiple seismic events.
    Print ISSN: 0305-8719
    Electronic ISSN: 2041-4927
    Topics: Geosciences
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  • 4
    Publication Date: 2018-03-30
    Description: The Cape Fear Slide is one of the largest (〉25 000 km 3 ) submarine slope failure complexes on the US Atlantic margin. Here we use a combination of new high-resolution multichannel seismic data (MCS) from the National Science Foundation Geodynamic Processes at Rifting and Subducting Margins (NSF GeoPRISMS) Community Seismic Experiment and legacy industry MCS to derive detailed stratigraphy of this slide and constrain the conditions that lead to slope instability. Limited outer-shelf and upper-slope accommodation space during the Neogene, combined with lowstand fluvial inputs and northwards Gulf Stream sediment transport, appears to have contributed to thick Miocene and Pliocene deposits that onlapped the lower slope. This resulted in burial of an upper-slope bypass zone developed from earlier erosional truncation of Paleogene strata. These deposits created a broad ramp that allowed accumulation of thick Quaternary strata across a low-gradient (〈3.5°) upper slope. Upslope of one of the larger headwalls, undulating Quaternary strata appear to downlap onto a buried failure plane. Many of the nested headwalls of the upper-slope portion of slide complex are underlain by deformed strata, which may be the result of fluid migration associated with localized subsidence from salt migration. These new data and observations suggest that antecedent margin physiography, sediment loading and substrate fluid flow were key factors in preconditioning the Cape Fear slope for failure.
    Print ISSN: 0305-8719
    Electronic ISSN: 2041-4927
    Topics: Geosciences
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  • 5
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    Geological Society of America (GSA)
    In: Geology
    Publication Date: 2013-08-09
    Description: The temporal coincidence between rapid late Pleistocene sea-level rise and large-scale slope failures is widely documented. Nevertheless, the physical mechanisms that link these phenomena are poorly understood, particularly along nonglaciated margins. Here we investigate the causal relationships between rapid sea-level rise, flexural stress loading, and increased seismicity rates along passive margins. We find that Coulomb failure stress across fault systems of passive continental margins may have increased more than 1 MPa during rapid late Pleistocene–early Holocene sea-level rise, an amount sufficient to trigger fault reactivation and rupture. These results suggest that sea-level–modulated seismicity may have contributed to a number of poorly understood but widely observed phenomena, including (1) increased frequency of large-scale submarine landslides during rapid, late Pleistocene sea-level rise; (2) emplacement of coarse-grained mass transport deposits on deep-sea fans during the early stages of marine transgression; and (3) the unroofing and release of methane gas sequestered in continental slope sediments.
    Print ISSN: 0091-7613
    Electronic ISSN: 1943-2682
    Topics: Geosciences
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  • 6
    Publication Date: 2019-04-15
    Print ISSN: 0094-8276
    Electronic ISSN: 1944-8007
    Topics: Geosciences , Physics
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  • 7
    Publication Date: 2018-05-01
    Description: The Pacific/North America (PA/NA) plate boundary between Vancouver Island and Alaska is similar to the PA/NA boundary in California in its kinematic history and the rate and azimuth of current relative motion, yet their deformation styles are distinct. The California plate boundary shows a broad zone of parallel strike slip and thrust faults and folds, whereas the 49-mm/yr PA/NA relative plate motion in Canada and Alaska is centered on a single, narrow, continuous ~900-km-long fault, the Queen Charlotte Fault (QCF). Using gravity analysis, we propose that this plate boundary is centered on the continent/ocean boundary (COB), an unusual location for continental transform faults because plate boundaries typically localize within the continental lithosphere, which is weaker. Because the COB is a boundary between materials of contrasting elastic properties, once a fault is established there, it will probably remain stable. We propose that deformation progressively shifted to the COB in the wake of Yakutat terrane's northward motion along the margin. Minor convergence across the plate boundary is probably accommodated by fault reactivation on Pacific crust and by an eastward dipping QCF. Underthrusting of Pacific slab under Haida Gwaii occurs at convergence angles 〉14°–15° and may have been responsible for the emergence of the archipelago. The calculated slab entry dip (5°–8°) suggests that the slab probably does not extend into the asthenosphere. The PA/NA plate boundary at the QCF can serve as a structurally simple site to investigate the impact of rheology and composition on crustal deformation and the initiation of slab underthrusting. Published 2018. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
    Print ISSN: 2169-9313
    Electronic ISSN: 2169-9356
    Topics: Geosciences , Physics
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  • 8
    Publication Date: 2018
    Description: 〈p〉The Queen Charlotte Fault defines the Pacific–North America transform plate boundary in western Canada and southeastern Alaska for 〈i〉c.〈/i〉 900 km. The entire length of the fault is submerged along a continental margin dominated by Quaternary glacial processes, yet the geomorphology along the margin has never been systematically examined due to the absence of high-resolution seafloor mapping data. Hence the geological processes that influence the distribution, character and timing of mass transport events and their associated hazards remain poorly understood. Here we develop a classification of the first-order shape of the continental shelf, slope and rise to examine potential relationships between form and process dominance. We found that the margin can be split into six geomorphic groups that vary smoothly from north to south between two basic end-members. The northernmost group (west of Chichagof Island, Alaska) is characterized by concave-upwards slope profiles, gentle slope gradients (2 and display scarp heights between 10 and 250 m. Transpression along the Queen Charlotte Fault increases southwards and the slope physiography is thus progressively more influenced by regional-scale tectonic deformation. The southernmost group (west of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia) defines the tectonically dominated end-member: the continental slope is characterized by steep gradients (〉20°) along the flanks of broad, margin-parallel ridges and valleys. Mass transport features in the tectonically dominated areas are mostly observed along steep escarpments and the larger slides (up to 10 km〈sup〉2〈/sup〉) appear to be failures of consolidated material along the flanks of tectonic features. Overall, these observations highlight the role of first-order margin physiography on the distribution and type of submarine landslides expected to occur in particular morphological settings. The sediment-dominated end-member allows for the accumulation of under-consolidated Quaternary sediments and shows larger, more frequent slides; the rugged physiography of the tectonically dominated end-member leads to sediment bypass and the collapse of uplifted tectonic features. The maximum and average dimensions of slides are an order of magnitude smaller than those of slides observed along other (passive) glaciated margins. We propose that the general patterns observed in slide distribution are caused by the interplay between tectonic activity (long- and short-term) and sediment delivery. The recurrence ( 7 earthquakes along the Queen Charlotte Fault may generate small, but frequent, failures of under-consolidated Quaternary sediments within the sediment-dominated regions. By contrast, the tectonically dominated regions are characterized by the bypass of Quaternary sediments to the continental rise and the less frequent collapse of steep, uplifted and consolidated sediments.〈/p〉
    Print ISSN: 0375-6440
    Electronic ISSN: 2041-4927
    Topics: Geosciences
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  • 9
    Publication Date: 2018
    Description: 〈p〉Multibeam echosounder (MBES) images, 3.5 kHz seismic-reflection profiles and piston cores obtained along the southern Queen Charlotte Fault Zone are used to map and date mass-wasting events at this transform margin – a seismically active boundary that separates the Pacific Plate from the North American Plate. Whereas the upper continental slope adjacent to and east (upslope) of the fault zone offshore of the Haida Gwaii is heavily gullied, few large-sized submarine landslides in this area are observed in the MBES images. However, smaller submarine seafloor slides exist locally in areas where fluid flow appears to be occurring and large seafloor slides have recently been detected at the base of the steep continental slope just above its contact with the abyssal plain on the Queen Charlotte Terrace. In addition, along the subtle slope re-entrant area offshore of the Dixon Entrance shelf bathymetric data suggest that extensive mass wasting has occurred in the vicinity of an active mud volcano venting gas. We surmise that the relative lack of submarine slides along the upper slope in close proximity to the Queen Charlotte Fault Zone may be the result of seismic strengthening (compaction and cohesion) of a sediment-starved shelf and slope through multiple seismic events.〈/p〉
    Print ISSN: 0375-6440
    Electronic ISSN: 2041-4927
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  • 10
    Publication Date: 2018
    Description: 〈p〉The Cape Fear Slide is one of the largest (〉25 000 km〈sup〉3〈/sup〉) submarine slope failure complexes on the US Atlantic margin. Here we use a combination of new high-resolution multichannel seismic data (MCS) from the National Science Foundation Geodynamic Processes at Rifting and Subducting Margins (NSF GeoPRISMS) Community Seismic Experiment and legacy industry MCS to derive detailed stratigraphy of this slide and constrain the conditions that lead to slope instability. Limited outer-shelf and upper-slope accommodation space during the Neogene, combined with lowstand fluvial inputs and northwards Gulf Stream sediment transport, appears to have contributed to thick Miocene and Pliocene deposits that onlapped the lower slope. This resulted in burial of an upper-slope bypass zone developed from earlier erosional truncation of Paleogene strata. These deposits created a broad ramp that allowed accumulation of thick Quaternary strata across a low-gradient (〈/p〉
    Print ISSN: 0375-6440
    Electronic ISSN: 2041-4927
    Topics: Geosciences
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