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The subaqueous landslide cycle in south-central Chilean lakes: the role of tephra, slope gradient and repeated seismic shaking
Moernaut, J.; Van Daele, M.; Heirman, K.; Wiemer, G.; Molenaar, A.; Vandorpe, T.; Melnick, D.; Hajdas, I.; Pino, M.; Urrutia, R.; De Batist, M. (2019). The subaqueous landslide cycle in south-central Chilean lakes: the role of tephra, slope gradient and repeated seismic shaking. Sediment. Geol. 381: 84-105.
In: Sedimentary Geology. Elsevier: Tokyo; Oxford; New York; London; Amsterdam. ISSN 0037-0738; e-ISSN 1879-0968, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Moernaut, J., more
  • Van Daele, M., more
  • Heirman, K., more
  • Wiemer, G.
  • Molenaar, A.
  • Vandorpe, T., more
  • Melnick, D.
  • Hajdas, I.
  • Pino, M.
  • Urrutia, R.
  • De Batist, M., more

    Subaqueous landslides are common features at active and passive ocean margins, in fjords and lakes. They can develop on very gentle slope gradients (<2°) and the presence of sandy tephra layers seems to facilitate the development of translational failure. Despite numerous investigations, it remains elusive how different slope preconditioning factors act and interact over time and how different triggering mechanisms can lead to slope failure. In settings of low to moderate seismicity, stratigraphic sequences with sublacustrine mass-transport deposits (MTDs) have successfully been used for constructing prehistorical earthquake catalogs. In high seismicity areas, it is inferred that not all strong earthquakes succeed in triggering landslides on the investigated slope segments, and MTD records do not fully represent their complete recurrence pattern. Here, we present the spatio-temporal distribution of MTDs in two large glacigenic Chilean lakes (Villarrica and Calafquén) based on a detailed seismic-stratigraphic analysis and several radiocarbon-dated piston cores (up to 14 m long). We find a strong influence of slope gradient on the occurrence and volume of landslide events; i.e. most (small) landslides take place on slopes of 5–20°, whereas the few large (potentially tsunamigenic) landslides exclusively occur on slopes of <4°. Liquefaction of sandy tephra layers facilitates the development of thin (<0.5 m) in-situ deformations during earthquake shaking. When sandy tephra layers get progressively buried, liquefaction becomes unlikely, but repeated excess pore pressure transfer to overlying units facilitates the development of translational sliding. The occurrence of voluminous landslides seems to follow a “landslide cycle” which starts with the deposition of a tephra layer and the development of in-situ deformations directly on top. Once the slope sequence reaches a critical thickness, the end of the cycle is indicated by incipient scarp development, and subsequent major sliding event(s). The duration of the landslide cycle is defined by the rate of gradual sedimentation, but may be affected by sudden geological events (e.g., volcanic eruptions), expediting the end of the cycle. Despite the many methodological challenges inherent to the construction of a MTD stratigraphy, we propose that well-dated multiple MTD events can be used as positive evidence to strengthen and specify the regional paleoseismic record, concerning the largest events in a high-seismicity region. This method is most successful when targeting the base of relatively steep slopes (5–20°) with frequent, minor landsliding, and complementing this with seismic-stratigraphic analysis of fluid-escape features and correlation with distal turbidite records.

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