Queen Charlotte Fault

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Tectonic map of Alaska and northwestern Canada showing main faults and historic earthquakes

The Queen Charlotte Fault is an active transform fault that marks the boundary of the North American plate and the Pacific plate.[1][2] It is Canada's right-lateral strike-slip equivalent to the San Andreas Fault to the south in California.[3] The Queen Charlotte Fault forms a triple junction south with the Cascadia subduction zone and the Explorer Ridge (the Queen Charlotte Triple Junction). The Queen Charlotte Fault (QCF) forms a transpressional plate boundary, and is as active as other major transform fault systems (i.e. San Andreas, Alpine) in terms of slip rates and seismogenic potential.[4] It sustains the highest known deformation rates among continental or continent-ocean transform systems globally, accommodating greater than 50mm/yr dextral offset.[5] The entire approximately 900 km offshore length has ruptured in seven greater than magnitude 7 events during the last century, making the cumulative historical seismic moment release higher than any other modern transform plate boundary system.[6]

The fault is named for the Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii) which lie just north of the triple junction. The Queen Charlotte Fault continues northward along the Alaskan coast where it is called the Fairweather Fault.[7] The two segments are collectively called the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault System.

Fault orientation and plate motion[edit]

The junction of the Queen Charlotte, Fairweather, and Transition faults is located at the southeastern tip of the Yakutat block, an oceanic plateau and microplate.[8] The southern boundary of the QCF is marked by the complex Pacific–North American–Explorer triple junction off the coast of southern British Columbia.[8] The Queen Charlotte Fault continues northward along the Alaskan coast where it is called the Fairweather Fault. The two segments are collectively called the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather Fault System. The current state of transpressive plate boundary systems results from spatial and temporal changes between both rheologic and kinematic parameters. From north to south, there is a decreasing rate of convergence[8] and change in fault obliquity which appears to divide the fault into at least three distinct kinematic zones [2] along strike with associated changes in seafloor morphology, fault structure, and seismicity.[3] We have the northern, central and southern segments with maximum obliquity (approximately 15°-20°) occurring south of 53.2°N and minimum obliquity (less than 5°) occurring north of 56°N. Existing geophysical data suggest abrupt transitions in deformation mechanisms and plate boundary dynamics across these boundaries with incipient underthrusting and strain partitioning in the south along Haida Gwaii,[9] distributed transpression in the central segment,[8] and highly localized strike-slip deformation in the north.[5] There are various mechanisms proposed to accommodate oblique convergence along the QCF, this include underthrusting and strain partitioning,[2] crustal thickening,[10] and distributed shear.[3][8] Through geologic time, a change in pacific plate motion beginning as recently as approximately 6 Ma[11] or as early as approximately 12 Ma[12] caused an increase in convergence along the entire length of the fault and initiated underthrusting[13] along the southern segment where convergence is highest,[2] a process that ultimately led to the 2012 Haida Gwaii thrust earthquake.[14]

Crustal deformation along strike[edit]

Southern segment[edit]

Crustal deformation via strain partitioning likely dominates the southern segment [15][16][8] as evidenced by the thrust mechanism of the 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake,[17] observed downwarping and normal faulting on the pacific plate west of Haida Gwaii.[18] This is also supported by the morphology of the Queen Charlotte Terrace, an approximately 30 km wide deformed accretionary prism-like complex west of the main QCF trace.[19] Several recent studies based on seismicity, GPS observations of coseismic and postseismic deformation, and thermal modeling[20] support the presence of a shallow plate boundary thrust.[21][22][23]

Central segment[edit]

In the central segment, abrupt changes in both seafloor morphology and structural geometry accompany a decrease in convergence angle. The Queen Charlotte Terrace widens and deepens, forming a series of oblique ridges and basins west of the QCF main trace.[24][8] There is a distinct structural transition due to a change in the stress regime from pure shear in the southern QCF segment to simple shear in the central QCF segment as a result of convergence decreasing below a critical angle of approximately 15°.[8]

Northern segment[edit]

In the northern segment which bore the epicenter of the 2013 Craig strike-slip earthquake, bathymetric data suggests that the ridge-basin complex gives way to simpler fault morphology.[5] Deformation largely occurs on what appears to be a single strike-slip structure.[5] The same location also marks earthquake rupture boundaries between the 2013 Craig event[25] and the 1972 M7.6 Sitka event,[26][27] as well as the inferred intersection of Chatham Straight Fault and the Aja Fracture Zone (FZ) with the Queen Charlotte Fault; the Aja FZ also marks an approximately 3 million year contrast in Pacific Plate crustal age.[2] Accommodation of strike-slip plate motion along a narrow deformation zone is consistent with focal mechanisms determined for the Craig event and aftershocks.[28] Combined with other observations along the fault, this behavior implies that there may be a critical angle of obliquity within the simple shear regime at which distributed shear across multiple structures is not sustainable, and deformation can be more easily accommodated on a single structure.The fault has been the source of large, very large, and great earthquakes.

Significant earthquakes along the fault[edit]

Date M Damage Article
1929 ~7
1949 8.1 Landslides, housing 1949 Queen Charlotte Islands earthquake
1958 7.8 Landslide, tsunami 1958 Lituya Bay earthquake and megatsunami
1970 7.4 Landslides
1990 5.3 Minor
2001 6.3 Minor
2004 6.8 Land slippage
2008 6.5 Minor
2009 6.6 Minor
2012 7.8 Hot Spring Island cessation 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake
2013 7.6 Supershear earthquake 2013 Craig, Alaska earthquake
2014 6.0 Undersea fiber-optic cable 2014 Palma Bay earthquake

Five large earthquakes have occurred along the Queen Charlotte Fault within the last hundred years: a magnitude 7 event in 1929, a magnitude 8.1 occurred in 1949 (Canada's largest recorded earthquake since the 1700 Cascadia earthquake), a magnitude 7.8 in 1958, a magnitude 7.4 in 1970, and a magnitude 7.8 on Oct 27 2012[4]

The P nodal focal mechanism for the 1949 earthquake indicates a virtually pure strike-slip movement with a northwest striking nodal plane corresponding to the strike of the fault.[4] The 1970 earthquake did however show a similar strike-slip movement with a small but significant thrust component, consistent with relative plate motion. The 1949 earthquake was larger than the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, causing nearly a 500 kilometer long segment of the Queen Charlotte Fault to break.

The 1958 earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8 and led to a major landslide in Lituya Bay, Alaska. This resulted in a 1,720 feet tsunami that crashed into a mountainside, the largest recorded tsunami run up.[29]

A 7.8 magnitude quake struck off the western coast of Haida Gwaii at around 8:10pm Pacific Time on Saturday 27 October 2012. This was the biggest quake in Canadian territory since 1949. Aftershocks as large as 6.3 were reported. A 45-cm tsunami was reported locally. Alerts were sent across the Pacific Basin.[30] This earthquake did not have any major impacts, except for the temporary cessation of the hotsprings on Hotspring Island. The spring seems to have returned to borderline nominal functioning as of July 2014.[31]

This quake was remarkable for having been a thrust, and not a strike-slip tremor, more like the mechanism of the Cascadia Subduction Zone to the south.[32] Recent detailed seafloor mapping has revealed the expression of the Queen Charlotte Fault on the seafloor[33] including the truncation of submarine canyons that occur along the continental slope.[34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Trehu, A. M.; Scheidhauer, M.; Rohr, K. M. M.; Tikoff, B.; Walton, M. A. L.; Gulick, S. P. S.; Roland, E. C. (2015-03-03). "An Abrupt Transition in the Mechanical Response of the Upper Crust to Transpression along the Queen Charlotte Fault". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1114–1128. doi:10.1785/0120140159. hdl:2152/43270. ISSN 0037-1106. S2CID 128679814.
  2. ^ a b c d e Walton, M. A. L.; Gulick, S. P. S.; Haeussler, P. J.; Roland, E. C.; Trehu, A. M. (2015-04-14). "Basement and Regional Structure Along Strike of the Queen Charlotte Fault in the Context of Modern and Historical Earthquake Ruptures". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1090–1105. doi:10.1785/0120140174. hdl:2152/43271. ISSN 0037-1106. S2CID 59376353.
  3. ^ a b c Rohr, K. M. M.; Tryon, A. J. (2010). "Pacific-North America plate boundary reorganization in response to a change in relative plate motion: Offshore Canada". Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. 11 (6). doi:10.1029/2009GC003019. ISSN 1525-2027. S2CID 129230105.
  4. ^ a b c Yue, Han; Lay, Thorne; Freymueller, Jeffrey T.; Ding, Kaihua; Rivera, Luis; Ruppert, Natalia A.; Koper, Keith D. (November 2013). "Supershear rupture of the 5 January 2013 Craig, Alaska ( M w 7.5) earthquake: 2013 CRAIG EARTHQUAKE SUPERSHEAR RUPTURE". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 118 (11): 5903–5919. doi:10.1002/2013JB010594. S2CID 3754158.
  5. ^ a b c d Brink, U. S. ten; Miller, N. C.; Andrews, B. D.; Brothers, D. S.; Haeussler, P. J. (2018). "Deformation of the Pacific/North America Plate Boundary at Queen Charlotte Fault: The Possible Role of Rheology". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 123 (5): 4223–4242. doi:10.1002/2017JB014770. hdl:1912/10462. ISSN 2169-9356. S2CID 133742253.
  6. ^ Bostwick, T. (1984). A re-examination of the August 22, 1949 Queen Charlotte earthquake.
  7. ^ Brothers, Daniel S.; Miller, Nathaniel C.; Barrie, J. Vaughn; Haeussler, Peter J.; Greene, H. Gary; Andrews, Brian D.; Zielke, Olaf; Watt, Janet; Dartnell, Peter (2020-01-15). "Plate boundary localization, slip-rates and rupture segmentation of the Queen Charlotte Fault based on submarine tectonic geomorphology". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 530: 115882. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2019.115882. ISSN 0012-821X. S2CID 210615976.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Trehu, A. M.; Scheidhauer, M.; Rohr, K. M. M.; Tikoff, B.; Walton, M. A. L.; Gulick, S. P. S.; Roland, E. C. (2015-05-01). "An Abrupt Transition in the Mechanical Response of the Upper Crust to Transpression along the Queen Charlotte Fault". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1114–1128. doi:10.1785/0120140159. hdl:2152/43270. ISSN 0037-1106. S2CID 128679814.
  9. ^ Barrie, J. Vaughn; Conway, Kim W.; Harris, Peter T. (2013-08-01). "The Queen Charlotte Fault, British Columbia: seafloor anatomy of a transform fault and its influence on sediment processes". Geo-Marine Letters. 33 (4): 311–318. doi:10.1007/s00367-013-0333-3. ISSN 1432-1157. S2CID 128409033.
  10. ^ Hyndman, R. D.; Hamilton, T. S. (1993-08-10). "Queen Charlotte Area Cenozoic tectonics and volcanism and their association with relative plate motions along the northeastern Pacific Margin". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 98 (B8): 14257–14277. doi:10.1029/93JB00777.
  11. ^ Doubrovine, Pavel V.; Tarduno, John A. (2008). "Linking the Late Cretaceous to Paleogene Pacific plate and the Atlantic bordering continents using plate circuits and paleomagnetic data". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 113 (B7). doi:10.1029/2008JB005584. ISSN 2156-2202.
  12. ^ DeMets, C; Merkouriev, S (2016-11-01). "High-resolution reconstructions of Pacific–North America plate motion: 20 Ma to present". Geophysical Journal International. 207 (2): 741–773. doi:10.1093/gji/ggw305. ISSN 0956-540X.
  13. ^ Bustin, A. M. M.; Hyndman, R. D.; Kao, H.; Cassidy, J. F. (2007-12-01). "Evidence for underthrusting beneath the Queen Charlotte Margin, British Columbia, from teleseismic receiver function analysis". Geophysical Journal International. 171 (3): 1198–1211. doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03583.x. ISSN 0956-540X.
  14. ^ Bird, Alison L.; Cassidy, John F.; Kao, Honn; Leonard, Lucinda J.; Allen, Trevor I.; Nykolaishen, Lisa; Dragert, Herb; Hobbs, Tiegan E.; Farahbod, Amir M. (2016-02-01), "The October 2012 magnitude (Mw) 7.8 earthquake offshore Haida Gwaii, Canada", Summary of the Bulletin of the International Seismological Centre, July - December 2012, Volume 49, Issue 7-12, Thatcham, UK: International Seismological Centre, pp. 41–72, doi:10.5281/zenodo.999242, S2CID 199107488, retrieved 2021-11-24
  15. ^ Hyndman, R. D.; Rogers, G. C. (1981). "Seismicity surveys with ocean bottom seismographs off western Canada". Journal of Geophysical Research. 86 (B5): 3867. doi:10.1029/JB086iB05p03867. ISSN 0148-0227.
  16. ^ Bérubé, J., G. C. Rogers, R. M. Ellis, and F. O. Hasselgren (1989). A microseismicity survey of the Queen Charlotte Islands region, Can. J. Earth Sci. 26, 2556–2566
  17. ^ Lay, Thorne; Ye, Lingling; Kanamori, Hiroo; Yamazaki, Yoshiki; Cheung, Kwok Fai; Kwong, Kevin; Koper, Keith D. (2013-08-01). "The October 28, 2012 Mw 7.8 Haida Gwaii underthrusting earthquake and tsunami: Slip partitioning along the Queen Charlotte Fault transpressional plate boundary". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 375: 57–70. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2013.05.005. ISSN 0012-821X.
  18. ^ Rohr, K. M. M. (2015-04-14). "Plate Boundary Adjustments of the Southernmost Queen Charlotte Fault". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1076–1089. doi:10.1785/0120140162. ISSN 0037-1106.
  19. ^ Riedel, M.; Yelisetti, S.; Papenberg, C.; Rohr, K.M.M.; Côté, M.M.; Spence, G.D.; Hyndman, R.D.; James, T. (2020-12-23). "Seismic velocity structure of the Queen Charlotte terrace off western Canada in the region of the 2012 Haida Gwaii Mw 7.8 thrust earthquake". Geosphere. 17 (1): 23–38. doi:10.1130/GES02258.1. ISSN 1553-040X.
  20. ^ Wang, K.; He, J.; Schulzeck, F.; Hyndman, R. D.; Riedel, M. (2015-04-07). "Thermal Condition of the 27 October 2012 Mw 7.8 Haida Gwaii Subduction Earthquake at the Obliquely Convergent Queen Charlotte Margin". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1290–1300. doi:10.1785/0120140183. ISSN 0037-1106.
  21. ^ Farahbod, A. M.; Kao, H. (2015-04-07). "Spatiotemporal Distribution of Events during the First Week of the 2012 Haida Gwaii Aftershock Sequence". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1231–1240. doi:10.1785/0120140173. ISSN 0037-1106.
  22. ^ Kao, H.; Shan, S.-J.; Farahbod, A. M. (2015-04-07). "Source Characteristics of the 2012 Haida Gwaii Earthquake Sequence". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1206–1218. doi:10.1785/0120140165. ISSN 0037-1106.
  23. ^ Nykolaishen, L.; Dragert, H.; Wang, K.; James, T. S.; Schmidt, M. (2015-04-07). "GPS Observations of Crustal Deformation Associated with the 2012 Mw 7.8 Haida Gwaii Earthquake". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1241–1252. doi:10.1785/0120140177. ISSN 0037-1106.
  24. ^ Rohr, Kristin M. M.; Scheidhauer, Maren; Trehu, Anne M. (2000-04-10). "Transpression between two warm mafic plates: The Queen Charlotte Fault revisited". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 105 (B4): 8147–8172. doi:10.1029/1999JB900403.
  25. ^ Yue, Han; Lay, Thorne; Freymueller, Jeffrey T.; Ding, Kaihua; Rivera, Luis; Ruppert, Natalia A.; Koper, Keith D. (November 2013). "Supershear rupture of the 5 January 2013 Craig, Alaska ( M w 7.5) earthquake: 2013 CRAIG EARTHQUAKE SUPERSHEAR RUPTURE". Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. 118 (11): 5903–5919. doi:10.1002/2013JB010594. S2CID 3754158.
  26. ^ Schell, Melissa M.; Ruff, Larry J. (1989-04-15). "Rupture of a seismic gap in southeastern Alaska: the 1972 Sitka earthquake (Ms 7.6)". Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. 54 (3): 241–257. doi:10.1016/0031-9201(89)90246-X. hdl:2027.42/27965. ISSN 0031-9201.
  27. ^ Plafker, George; Moore, J. Casey; Winkler, Gary R. (1994-01-01). "Geology of the southern Alaska margin". The Geology of Alaska. pp. 389–449. doi:10.1130/DNAG-GNA-G1.389. ISBN 0813752191.
  28. ^ Holtkamp, S.; Ruppert, N. (2015-04-07). "A High Resolution Aftershock Catalog of the Magnitude 7.5 Craig, Alaska, Earthquake on 5 January 2013". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 105 (2B): 1143–1152. doi:10.1785/0120140179. ISSN 0037-1106.
  29. ^ "Earthquake Hazards in Southeastern Alaska". www.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2021-03-07.
  30. ^ CBC Newsworld, "7.7 Magnitude Quake Breaking News Special", airdate: 27–28 October 2012
  31. ^ Haida Gwaii's Hotsprings Island showing signs of recovery
  32. ^ Goldfinger, Chris; Ikeda, Yasutaka; Yeats, Robert S. (December 3, 2012). "Superquakes, supercycles, and global earthquake clustering: Recent research and recent quakes reveal surprises in major fault systems". EARTH Magazine.
  33. ^ Barrie, J.V., Conway, K., Harris, P.T., 2013. The Queen Charlotte Fault, British Columbia: seafloor anatomy of a transform fault and its influence on sediment processes. Geo-Marine Letters 33, 311–318.
  34. ^ Harris, P.T., Barrie, J.V., Conway, K.W., Greene, G.H., 2014. Hanging canyons of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada: Fault-control on submarine canyon geomorphology along active continental margins. Deep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography 104, 83–92.

External links[edit]