Volcanic islands export clastic material to their surrounding oceans by explosive eruptions, lava emissions, biogenic production on their shelves, and failure of their slopes, amongst other processes. This raises the question of whether geological events (in particular, eruptions and landslides) can be detected offshore and dated, and whether any relationships (for example, with climate changes) can be revealed using sediment cores. The volcanically active central Azorean islands (Faial, Pico, São Jorge, and Terceira), with their neighboring submarine basins, are potentially good candidates for such an analysis. Here, chronostratigraphies of four gravity cores collected amongst the islands are constructed based on twelve radiocarbon dates and two dates derived by geochemically correlating primary volcaniclastic turbidites with ignimbrites on Faial and Terceira Islands. Age-depth models are built from the hemipelagic intervals to estimate individual turbidite dates. Volumes of turbidites are modeled by multiplying basin areas with bed thickness, allowing for various turbidite thinning rates and directions. The volumes of landslide-generated turbidites are only comparable with the largest volumes of their adjacent upper-slope submarine landslide valleys; therefore, such turbidites in the cores likely derive from these largest landslides.

Emplacement intervals between turbidites originating from both landslides and pyroclastic density currents are found to be mostly a few thousand years. Frequencies of landslide-generated turbidites and hemipelagic sedimentation rates were both highest in the past 8 k.y. compared to preceding periods up to 50 k.y. High hemipelagic sedimentation rates are interpreted to be related to sea-level rise, allowing more shelf bioproduction and release of particles by coastal erosion. The coincident increased frequencies of submarine landslides may also be associated with the increased sediment supply from the islands, resulting in a more rapid build-up of unstable sediments on submarine slopes. Notably, the emplacement frequencies of turbidites of pyroclastic density current origins do not suggest the decreased eruption frequency toward the Holocene that has been found elsewhere.

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