Abstract

The St. Elias, Alaska, earthquake (magnitude 7.1 Ms) on February 28, 1979, occurred along the complex Pacific–North American plate boundary between Yakutat Bay and Prince William Sound, rupturing only a fraction of the seismic gap identified in that region. To aid in evaluating the potential for, and likely site of, a future earthquake occurring in the remainder of the gap, we have formulated a kinematic model of neotectonic deformation in southern Alaska from available geologic and seismic data. In this model the part of the North American plate bordering on the Gulf of Alaska is divided into three subblocks, which are partially coupled to the Pacific plate. On the basis of the model, the gap-filling rupture or ruptures would most likely be along the north-dipping thrust faults of the Pamplona zone between Icy Bay and the eastern end of the Aleutian Trench. If the accumulated strain of 3.8 m postulated for this region were released suddenly in one event involving the remainder of the gap, the result would be an earthquake as large as magnitude 8.

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