Palaeoseismology of the North Anatolian Fault near the Marmara Sea: implications for fault segmentation and seismic hazard
Thomas Rockwell, Daniel Ragona, Gordon Seitz, Rob Langridge, M. Ersen Aksoy, Gülsen Ucarkus, Matthieu Ferry, Aron J. Meltzner, Yann Klinger, Mustapha Meghraoui, Dilek Satir, Aykut Barka, Burcak Akbalik, 2009. "Palaeoseismology of the North Anatolian Fault near the Marmara Sea: implications for fault segmentation and seismic hazard", Palaeoseismology: Historical and Prehistorical Records of Earthquake Ground Effects for Seismic Hazard Assessment, K. Reicherter, A. M. Michetti, P. G. Silva
Download citation file:
We conducted palaeoseismic studies along the North Anatolian fault both east and west of the Marmara Sea to evaluate its recent surface rupture history in relation to the well-documented historical record of earthquakes in the region, and to assess the hazard of this major fault to the city of Istanbul, one of the largest cities in the Middle East. Across the 1912 rupture of the Ganos strand of the North Anatolian fault west of the Marmara Sea, we excavated 26 trenches to resolve slip and constrain the earthquake history on a channel–fan complex that crosses the fault at a high angle. A distinctive, well-sorted fine sand channel that served as a marker unit was exposed in 21 trenches totaling over 300 m in length. Isopach mapping shows that the sand is channelized north of the fault, and flowed as an overflow fan complex across a broad fault scarp to the south. Realignment of the feeder channel thalweg to the fan apex required about 9±1 m of reconstruction. Study of the rupture history in several exposures demonstrates that this displacement occurred as two large events. Analysis of radiocarbon dates places the age of the sand channel as post ad 1655, so we attribute the two surface ruptures to the large regional earthquakes of 1766 and 1912. If each was similar in size, then about 4–5 m of slip can be attributed to each event, consistent with that reported for 1912 farther east. We also found evidence for two additional surface ruptures after about ad 900, which probably correspond to the large regional earthquakes of 1063 and 1344 (or 1354). These observations suggest fairly periodic occurrence of large earthquakes (RI=c. 283±113 years) for the past millennium, and a rate of c. 16 mm/a if all events experienced similar slip.
We excavated six trenches at two sites along the 1999 Izmit rupture to study the past earthquake history along that segment of the North Anatolian fault. One site, located in the township of Köseköy east of Izmit, revealed evidence for three surface ruptures (including 1999) during the past 400 years. The other trench was sited in an Ottoman canal that was excavated (but never completed) in 1591. There is evidence for three large surface rupturing events in the upper 2 m of alluvial fill within the canal at that site, located only a few kilometres from the Köseköy site. One of the past events is almost certainly the large earthquake of 1719, for which historical descriptions of damage are nearly identical to that of 1999. Other earthquakes that could plausibly be attributed to the other recognized rupture of the Izmit segment are the 1754, 1878 or 1894 events, all of which produced damage in the region and for which the source faults are poorly known. Our palaeoseismic observations suggest that the Izmit segment of the North Anatolia fault ruptures every one and a half centuries or so, consistent with the historical record for the region, although the time between ruptures may be as short as 35 years if 1754 broke the Izmit segment.
Release of about 4 m of seismic slip both west and east of the Marmara Sea this past century (1912, 1999) support the contention that Istanbul is at high risk from a pending large earthquake. In that historical records suggest that the last large central Marmara Sea event occurred in 1766, there may be a similar 4 m of accumulated strain across the Marmara basin segment of the North Anatolian fault.
Figures & Tables
Palaeoseismology: Historical and Prehistorical Records of Earthquake Ground Effects for Seismic Hazard Assessment
Given the tremendous toll in human lives and attendant economic losses, it is appropriate that scientists are working hard to understand better earthquakes, with the aim of forecasting and, ultimately, predicting them.
In the last decades increasing attention has been paid to the coseismic effects on the natural environment, creating a solid base of empirical data for the estimation of source parameters of strong earthquakes based on geological observations. The recently introduced INQUA scale (Environmental Seismic Intensity–ESI 2007 Scale) of macroseismic intensity clearly shows how the systematic study of earthquake surface faulting, coseismic liquefaction, tsunami deposits and other primary and secondary ground effects can be integrated with “traditional” seismological and tectonic information to provide a better understanding of the seismicity level of an area and the associated hazards. At the moment this is the only scientific means of equating the seismic records to the seismic cycle time-spans extending the seismic catalogues even to tens of thousands of years, improving future seismic hazard analyses.
This Special Publication covers some of the latest multidisciplinary work undertaken to achieve that aim. Eighteen papers from research groups from all continents address a wide range of topics related both to palaeoseismological studies and assessment of macroseismic intensity based only on the natural phenomena associated with an earthquake.