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ABSTRACT

A tidal marsh at the head of Discovery Bay contains the longest record of tsunami deposits in Washington State. At least nine tsunami deposits dating back 2500 yr are preserved as fine sand layers in peaty tidal marsh deposits. Discovery Bay is a setting that amplifies tsunami waves, has an abundant sediment source, and a tidal marsh that traps and preserves tsunami deposits. The youngest deposit, bed 1, is probably from the 1700 A.D. Cascadia earthquake. Bed 2 has a newly revised age of 630–560 cal yr B.P. (1320–1390 A.D.), an age range that overlaps with the ages of tsunami deposits from Vancouver, British Columbia, and northern Oregon, as well as evidence for strong shaking in the region including submarine and sublacustrine slope failures. However, there is no geologic evidence for a late fourteenth-century earthquake or tsunami in any of the southwest Washington estuaries that record seven Cascadia earthquakes in the last 3500 yr. Discovery Bay bed 2 and similar-aged evidence in the region may represent a short rupture on the Cascadia subduction thrust, possibly centered west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, that did not cause significant coastal subsidence. Other possible sources considered for bed 2 include a crustal fault earthquake, a tsunamigenic slope failure, or a transoceanic tsunami. Older tsunami deposits beds 3–9, which outnumber the number of Cascadia earthquakes in the last 2500 yr, are likely from a combination of Cascadia and non-Cascadia sources. Additional radiocarbon dating of beds 3–9 will improve age ranges and constrain potential sources.

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