High-resolution, multi-proxy characterization of the event deposit generated by the catastrophic events associated with the Mw 6.2 earthquake of 21 April 2007 in Aysén fjord (Chile)

Marc De Batist, Maarten Van Daele, Veerle Cnudde, Philippe Duyck, RH Tjallingii, M Pino, R Urrutia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


In 2007, a seismic swarm with more than 7000 recorded earthquakes affected the region around Aysén fjord, Chile (45textdegree25'S). The series of seismic events reached a maximum on 21 April 2007, with an Mw 6.2 earthquake. Intensities as high as VIII to IX on the Modified Mercalli scale were reported around the epicenter. Multiple debris flows, rock slides and rock avalanches were triggered along the fjord's coastline, and several of these caused impact waves or tsunamis with wave heights of up to 6 m, which inundated the fjord shorelines and caused heavy damage and 10 casualties. In order to characterize in detail the imprint left by this series of catastrophic events in the sedimentary record of the fjord, we conducted a multi-disciplinary survey of the inner fjord region in December 2009. Multibeam bathymetry and high-resolution reflection seismic data reveal that large parts of the fjord basin floor, mostly at the foot of the fjord's steep underwater slopes, are covered by recent mass-wasting deposits or consist of mass-wasting-induced deformed basin-plain sediments. A series of short sediment cores collected throughout the inner fjord contain also the more distal deposits of this significant basin-wide mass-wasting event. By combining classical sedimentological techniques (i.e. grain-size analysis, LOI and magnetic susceptibility measurements, all at high resolution) with X-ray CT scanning and XRF scanning we were able to demonstrate that the event deposits encountered in the cores have a very complex signature and actually consist of a succession of several sub-deposits, comprising distal mass-flow deposits from different source areas (as evidenced by XRF-derived geochemical provenance indications) and with a different flow direction (as evidenced by CT-derived 3D flow-direction indications, such as imbricated rip-up mud clasts, cross and convolute laminations) and tsunami- or seiche-generated deposits. This allowed us to reconstruct the succession of sedimentary events that affected the inner fjord region and got imprinted in the fjord's sedimentary record. The improved characterization of such a complex event deposit may help to reconstruct the exact nature and basin-wide effects of past similar events (i.e. the seismic data show clear evidence of 3-4 similar prehistoric events) and to establish a reliable hazard assessment for the region.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAGU Fall meeting, Abstracts
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union (AGU)
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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