This report contains field and laboratory data from a paleoseismic study of the Susitna Glacier fault, Alaska. The initial M 7.2 subevent of the November 3, 2002, M 7.9 Denali fault earthquake sequence produced a 48-km-long set of complex fault scarps, folds, and aligned landslides on the previously unknown, north-dipping Susitna Glacier thrust fault along the southern margin of the Alaska Range in central Alaska. Most of the 2002 folds and fault scarps are 1-3 m high, implying dip-slip thrust offsets (assuming a near-surface fault dip of approximately 20 degrees)of 3-5 m. Locally, some of the 2002 ruptures were superimposed on preexisting scarps that have as much as 5-10 m of vertical separation and are evidence of previous surface-rupturing earthquakes on the Susitna Glacier fault. In 2003-2005, we focused follow-up studies on several of the large scarps at the 'Wet fan' site in the central part of the 2002 rupture to determine the pre-2002 history of large surface-rupturing earthquakes on the fault. We chose this site for several reasons: (1) the presence of pre-2002 thrust- and normal-fault scarps on a gently sloping, post-glacial alluvial fan; (2) nearby natural exposures of underlying fan sediments revealed fine-grained fluvial silts with peat layers and volcanic ash beds useful for chronological control; and (3) a lack of permafrost to a depth of more than 1 m. Our studies included detailed mapping, fault-scarp profiling, and logging of three hand-excavated trenches. We were forced to restrict our excavations to 1- to 2-m-high splay faults and folds because the primary 2002 ruptures mostly were superimposed on such large scarps that it was impossible to hand dig through the hanging wall to expose the fault plane. Additional complications are the pervasive effects of cryogenic processes (mainly solifluction) that can mask or mimic tectonic deformation.
The purpose of this report is to present photomosaics, trench logs, scarp profiles, and fault slip, radiocarbon, tephrochronologic, and unit description data obtained during this investigation. We do not attempt to use the data presented herein to construct a paleoseismic history of the Susitna Glacier fault; that history will be the subject of a future report. When completed, our results will be used to compare the Susitna Glacier fault paleoseismic record with results of similar studies on the nearby Denali fault to determine if the simultaneous rupture of these two faults during the 2002 Denali fault earthquake sequence is typical or atypical of their long-term interaction.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Logs and Geologic Data from a Paleoseismic Investigation of the Susitna Glacier fault, Central Alaska Range, Alaska