A tribute to George Plafker

Quaternary Science Reviews
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Abstract

In a long and distinguished career, George Plafker made fundamental advances in understanding of megathrust tectonics, tsunami generation, paleoseismology, crustal neotectonics, and Alaskan geology, chiefly by means of geological field observations. George discovered that giant earthquakes result from tens of meters of seismic slip on subduction megathrusts, and he did this before the theory of plate tectonics had become a paradigm. The discovery was founded on George's comprehensive mapping of land-level changes in the aftermath of the 1964 earthquake in Alaska, and on his follow-up mapping, in 1968, in the region of the 1960 earthquakes in Chile. The mapping showed paired, parallel belts of coseismic uplift largely offshore and coseismic subsidence mostly onshore – a pattern now familiar as the initial condition assumed in simulations of subduction-zone tsunamis. George recognized, moreover, that splay faulting can play a major role in tsunami generation, and he also distinguished carefully between tectonic and landslide sources for the multiple tsunamis that accounted for nearly all the fatalities associated with the 1964 Alaska earthquake. George's classic monographs on the 1964 earthquake include findings on subduction-zone paleoseismology that he soon extended to include stratigraphic evidence for cyclic vertical deformation at the Copper River Delta, as well as recurrent uplift evidenced by flights of marine terraces at Middleton Island. As a geologist of earthquakes, George also clarified the tectonics and hazards of crustal faulting in Alaska, California, and other areas worldwide. All the while, George was mapping bedrock geology in Alaska, where he contributed importantly to today's understanding of how terranes were accreted and modified. Especially important was his documentation of the origin, movement, subduction, and collision of the Yakutat terrane in southern Alaska.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A tribute to George Plafker
Series title Quaternary Science Reviews
DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.11.010
Volume 113
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description 5 p.
First page 3
Last page 7