ABSTRACT

The Mw 7.1 47 km deep earthquake that occurred on 30 November 2018 had deep societal impacts across southcentral Alaska and exhibited phenomena of broad scientific interest. We document observations that point to future directions of research and hazard mitigation. The rupture mechanism, aftershocks, and deformation of the mainshock are consistent with extension inside the Pacific plate near the down‐dip limit of flat‐slab subduction. Peak ground motions >25%g were observed across more than 8000  km2, though the most violent near‐fault shaking was avoided because the hypocenter was nearly 50 km below the surface. The ground motions show substantial variation, highlighting the influence of regional geology and near‐surface soil conditions. Aftershock activity was vigorous with roughly 300 felt events in the first six months, including two dozen aftershocks exceeding M 4.5. Broad subsidence of up to 5 cm across the region is consistent with the rupture mechanism. The passage of seismic waves and possibly the coseismic subsidence mobilized ground waters, resulting in temporary increases in stream flow. Although there were many failures of natural slopes and soils, the shaking was insufficient to reactivate many of the failures observed during the 1964 M 9.2 earthquake. This is explained by the much shorter duration of shaking as well as the lower amplitude long‐period motions in 2018. The majority of observed soil failures were in anthropogenically placed fill soils. Structural damage is attributed to both the failure of these emplaced soils as well as to the ground motion, which shows some spatial correlation to damage. However, the paucity of instrumental ground‐motion recordings outside of downtown Anchorage makes these comparisons challenging. The earthquake demonstrated the challenge of issuing tsunami warnings in complex coastal geographies and highlights the need for a targeted tsunami hazard evaluation of the region. The event also demonstrates the challenge of estimating the probabilistic hazard posed by intraslab earthquakes.

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