Abstract

A new approach to detect Holocene subduction-zone earthquakes combines the results from ground-penetrating radar (GPR), Vibracores, and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates from a barrier spit located west of Willapa Bay, southwest Washington. GPR data show a 10-m-thick facies of beach sand within which we identify, and Vibracores confirm, beach-parallel, wave-eroded, buried scarps mantled with multiple beds of magnetite. The eight GPR-detected buried scarps are interpreted to be eroded by minor transgressions caused by instantaneous barrier subsidence during earthquakes associated with the Juan de Fuca plate subducting under the North American plate. Of these scarps, four have been AMS dated at 300, 1110, 2540, and 4250 (radiocarbon) yr B.P. No datable material has yet been found for the other four radar-detected scarps, but we interpolate and extrapolate dates of 1800, 3400, 5000, and 5800 yr B.P.

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