The identification of individual past earthquakes and their characterization in time and space, as well as in magnitude, can be approached in many different ways with a large variety of methods and techniques, using a wide spectrum of objects and features. We revise the stratigraphic and geomorphic evidence currently used in the study of paleoseismicity, after more than three decades since the work by Allen (1975), which was arguably the first critical overview in the field of earthquake geology. Natural objects or geomarkers suitable for paleoseismic analyses are essentially preserved in the sediments, and in a broader sense, in the geologic record. Therefore, the study of these features requires the involvement of geoscientists, but very frequently it is a multidisciplinary effort. The constructed environment and heritage, which typically are the focus of archaeoseismology and macroseismology, here are left aside. The geomarkers suitable to paleoseismic assessment can be grouped based on their physical relation to the earthquake’s causative fault. If directly associated with the fault surface rupture, these objects are known as direct or on-fault features (primary effects in the Environmental Seismic Intensity [ESI] 2007 scale). Conversely, those indicators not in direct contact with the fault plane are known as indirect or off-fault evidence (secondary effects in the ESI 2007 scale). This second class of evidence can be subdivided into three types or subclasses: type A, which encompasses seismically induced effects, including soft-sediment deformation (soil liquefaction, mud diapirism), mass movements (including slumps), broken (disturbed) speleothems, fallen precarious rocks, shattered basement rocks, and marks of degassing (pockmarks, mud volcanoes); type B, which consists of remobilized and redeposited sediments (turbidites, homogenites, and tsunamites) and transported rock fragments (erratic blocks); and type C, entailing regional markers of uplift or subsidence (such as reef tracts, microatolls, terrace risers, river channels, and in some cases progressive unconformities). The first subclass of objects (type A) is generated by seismic shaking. The second subclass (type B) relates either to water bodies set in motion by the earthquake (for the sediments and erratic blocks) or to earthquake shaking; in a general way, they all relate to wave propagation through different materials. The third subclass (type C) is mostly related to the tectonic deformation itself and can range from local (next to the causative fault) to regional scale. The natural exposure of the paleoseismic objects—which necessarily conditions the paleoseismic approach employed—is largely controlled by the geodynamic setting. For instance, oceanic subduction zones are mostly submarine, while collisional settings tend to occur in continental environments. Divergent and wrenching margins may occur anywhere, in any marine, transitional, or continental environment. Despite the fact that most past subduction earthquakes have to be assessed through indirect evidence, paleoseismic analyses of this category of events have made dramatic progress recently, owing to the increasingly catastrophic impact that they have on human society.

Geological Criteria for Evaluating Seismicity Revisited: Forty Years of Paleoseismic Investigations and the Natural Record of Past Earthquakes

MICHETTI, ALESSANDRO MARIA
2011

Abstract

The identification of individual past earthquakes and their characterization in time and space, as well as in magnitude, can be approached in many different ways with a large variety of methods and techniques, using a wide spectrum of objects and features. We revise the stratigraphic and geomorphic evidence currently used in the study of paleoseismicity, after more than three decades since the work by Allen (1975), which was arguably the first critical overview in the field of earthquake geology. Natural objects or geomarkers suitable for paleoseismic analyses are essentially preserved in the sediments, and in a broader sense, in the geologic record. Therefore, the study of these features requires the involvement of geoscientists, but very frequently it is a multidisciplinary effort. The constructed environment and heritage, which typically are the focus of archaeoseismology and macroseismology, here are left aside. The geomarkers suitable to paleoseismic assessment can be grouped based on their physical relation to the earthquake’s causative fault. If directly associated with the fault surface rupture, these objects are known as direct or on-fault features (primary effects in the Environmental Seismic Intensity [ESI] 2007 scale). Conversely, those indicators not in direct contact with the fault plane are known as indirect or off-fault evidence (secondary effects in the ESI 2007 scale). This second class of evidence can be subdivided into three types or subclasses: type A, which encompasses seismically induced effects, including soft-sediment deformation (soil liquefaction, mud diapirism), mass movements (including slumps), broken (disturbed) speleothems, fallen precarious rocks, shattered basement rocks, and marks of degassing (pockmarks, mud volcanoes); type B, which consists of remobilized and redeposited sediments (turbidites, homogenites, and tsunamites) and transported rock fragments (erratic blocks); and type C, entailing regional markers of uplift or subsidence (such as reef tracts, microatolls, terrace risers, river channels, and in some cases progressive unconformities). The first subclass of objects (type A) is generated by seismic shaking. The second subclass (type B) relates either to water bodies set in motion by the earthquake (for the sediments and erratic blocks) or to earthquake shaking; in a general way, they all relate to wave propagation through different materials. The third subclass (type C) is mostly related to the tectonic deformation itself and can range from local (next to the causative fault) to regional scale. The natural exposure of the paleoseismic objects—which necessarily conditions the paleoseismic approach employed—is largely controlled by the geodynamic setting. For instance, oceanic subduction zones are mostly submarine, while collisional settings tend to occur in continental environments. Divergent and wrenching margins may occur anywhere, in any marine, transitional, or continental environment. Despite the fact that most past subduction earthquakes have to be assessed through indirect evidence, paleoseismic analyses of this category of events have made dramatic progress recently, owing to the increasingly catastrophic impact that they have on human society.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11383/1729804
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