We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Zong, Y., Shennan, I., Combellick, R.A., Hamilton, S.L. & Rutherford, M.M. Microfossil evidence for land movements associated with the AD 1964 Alaska earthquake. The Holocene. 2003;13:7-20.

Author(s) from Durham


Microfossil diatom and pollen data from a number of cores at coastal marshes at Girdwood Flats and Kenai Flats in Cook Inlet, Alaska, suggest that there was a phase of gradual land subsidence prior to the main shock of the AD 1964 earthquake. This phase followed a long period of gradual land uplift since the last large earthquake, which occurred about 730-900 years ago. Caesium (137Cs) records indicate that subsidence started approximately 15 years before the 1964 earthquake. This pre-seismic subsidence is evident in the coastal marsh sediment sequences in changes in diatom and pollen assemblages that indicate changes in tidal-marsh environments or a change from raised-bog to marsh conditions. The microfossil evidence indicates ~0.15 m pre-seismic land subsidence at both Girdwood Flats and Kenai Flats and co-seismic subsidence of ~1.8 m and ~0.2 m respectively.


Atwater, B.F. 1987: Evidence for great Holocene earthquakes along the outer coast of Washington State. Science 236, 942–44.
Atwater, B.F., Nelson, A.R., Clague, J.J., Carver, G.A., Yamaguchi, D.K., Bobrowsky, P.T., Borgeois, J., Darienzo, M.E., Grant, W.C., Hemphill-Haley, E., Kelsey, H.M., Jacoby, G.C., Nishenko, S.P., Palmer, S.P., Peterson, C.D. and Reinhart, M.A. 1995: Summary of coastal geologic evidence for past great earthquakes at the Cascadia subduction zone. Earthquake Spectra 11, 1–18.
Atwater, B.F. and Hemphill-Haley, E. 1997: Recurrence intervals for large earthquakes of the past 3500 years at northeastern Willapa Bay, Washington. US Geological Survey Professional Paper 1576, Virginia:
US Geological Survey.
Atwater, B.F., Yamaguchi, D.K., Bondevik, S., Barnhardt, W.A., Amidon, L.J., Benson, B.E., Skjerdal, G., Shulene, J.A. and Nanayama, F.
2001: Rapid resetting of an estuarine recorder of the 1964 Alaska Earthquake.
Bulletin of the Geological Society of America 113, 1193–204.
Bartsch-Winkler, S. and Schmoll, H.R. 1992: Utility of radiocarbondated stratigraphy in determining late Holocene earthquake recurrence intervals, upper Cook Inlet region, Alaska. Geological Society of America Bulletin 104, 684–94.
Batten, A.R., Murphy, S. and Murray, D.F. 1978: DeŽ nition of Alaskan coastal wetlands by  oristic criteria. Corvallis, Oregon: Corvallis Environmental Research Laboratory, 490 pp.
Birks, H.J.B., Line, J.M., Juggins, S., Stevenson, A.C. and ter Braak, C.J.F. 1990: Diatom and pH reconstruction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 327, 263–78.
Brown, L.D., Reilinger, R.E., Holdahl, S.R. and Balazs, E.I. 1977:
crustal uplift near Anchorage, Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research 83, 3369–78.
Clague, J.J. 1997: Evidence for large earthquakes at the Cascadia subduction zone. Reviews of Geophysics 35(4), 439–60.
Clague, J.J., Bobrowsky, P.T. and Hamilton, T.S. 1994: A sand sheet deposited by the 1964 Alaska tsunami at Port Alberni, British Columbia.
Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 38, 413–21.
Cohen, S.C. and Freymueller, J.T. 1997: Deformation of the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research 102, 20479–87.
Combellick, R.A. 1991: Paleoseismicity of the Cook Inlet region, Alaska:
evidence from peat stratigraphy in Turnagain and Knik Arms. Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys Professional Report, Fairbanks, 52 pp.
—— 1994: Investigation of peat stratigraphy in tidal marshes along Cook Inlet, Alaska, to determine the frequency of 1964-style great earthquakes in the Anchorage region. Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys Report of Investigations 94–97, Fairbanks, 24 pp.
—— 1997: Evidence of prehistoric great earthquakes in the Cook Inlet Region, Alaska. In Hamilton, T.D., editor, IGCP Project 367, Late Quaternary coastal records of rapid change: application to present and future conditions, 4th annual meeting, Girdwood, Alaska, May 11–18, Ž eld trip guide book, Department of Geological Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, 114.
Combellick, R.A. and Reger, R.D. 1994: Sedimentological and radiocarbon- age data for tidal marshes along eastern and upper Cook Inlet, Alaska.
Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys Report of Investigations 94–96, Fairbanks, 60 pp.
Denys, L. 1991–92: A check-list of the diatoms in the Holocene deposits of the western Belgian coastal plain with a survey of their apparent ecological requirements. Professional Paper 246, Belgian Geological Survey, Belgium.
Freymueller, J.T., Cohen, S.C. and Fletcher, H.J. 2000: Spatial variations in present-day deformation, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and their implications. Journal of Geophysical Research 105, 8079–101.
Gasse, F., Barker, P., Gell, P.A., Fritz, S.C. and Chalie, F. 1997:
Diatom-inferred salinity in palaeolakes: an indirect tracer of climate change. Quaternary Science Reviews 16, 547–63.
Grimm, E. 1993: TILIA: a pollen program for analysis and display.
SpringŽ eld, IL: Illinois State Museum.
Guilbault, J.P., Clague, J.J. and Lapointe, M. 1995: Amount of subsidence during a late Holocene earthquake – evidence from fossil tidal marsh foraminifera at Vancouver Island, west coast of Canada. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 111, 49–71.
—— 1996: Foraminiferal evidence for the amount of coseismic subsidence during a late Holocene earthquake on Vancouver Island, west coast of Canada. Quaternary Science Reviews 15, 913–37.
Hamilton, S.L. 1998. Investigation into the use of Cs-137 and Pb-201 to date sediment deposited prior to the 1964 Alaskan earthquake. Unpublished MSc thesis, University of Durham, 104 pp (available from author).
Hayashi, T. 1966: Geodetic survey in the area of Matsushiro earthquake swarms. Bulletin of Geographic Survey Institute 12, 20–25.
Hemphill-Haley, E. 1995a: Intertidal diatoms from Willapa Bay,
application to studies of small-scale sea-level changes. Northwest Science 69, 29–45.
—— 1995b: Diatom evidence for earthquake-induced subsidence and tsunami 300 yr ago in southern coastal Washington. Geological Society of America Bulletin 107, 367–78.
—— 1996: Diatoms as an aid in identifying late-Holocene tsunami deposits. The Holocene 6, 439–48.
Jones, V.J. and Juggins, S. 1995: The construction of diatom-based chlorophyll transfer function and its application at three lakes on Signy Island subject to differing degrees of nutrient enrichment. Freshwater Biology 34, 433–45.
Juggins, S. and ter Braak, C.J.F. 1992: CALIBRATE, release 7.0.
Department of Geography, University of Newcastle, UK.
Kato, N., Ohtake, M. and Hirasawa, T. 1997: Possible mechanism of precorsory seismic quiescence: regional stress relaxation due to preseismic sliding. Pure and Applied Geophysics 150, 249–67.
Long, A.J. and Shennan, I. 1994: Sea-level changes in Washington and Oregon and the ‘earthquake deformation cycle’. Journal of Coastal Research 10, 825–38.
—— 1998: Models of rapid relative sea-level change in Washington and Oregon, USA. The Holocene 8, 129–42.
Mathewes, R.W. and Clague, J.J. 1994: Detection of large prehistoric earthquakes in the PaciŽ c Northwest by microfossil analysis. Science 264, 688–91.
Mescherikov, J.A. 1968: Recent crustal movements in seismic regions:
geodetic and geomorphic data. Tectonophysics 6, 29–39.
Moore, P.D., Webb, J.A. and Collinson, M.E. 1991: Pollen analysis.
London: Blackwell, 216 pp.
Nelson, A.R. 1992: Discordant 14C ages from buried tidal-marsh soils in the Cascadia subduction zone, southern Oregon coast. Quaternary Research 38, 74–90.
Nelson, A.R. and Kashima, K. 1993: Diatom zonation in southern Oregon tidal marshes relative to vascular plants, foraminifera and sea level.
of Coastal Research 9, 673–97.
Nelson, A.R., Atwater, B.F., Bobrowsky, P.T., Bradley, L.-A., Clague, J.J., Carver, G.A., Darienzo, M.E., Grant, W.C., Krueger, H.W., Sparks, R., Stafford, T.W.J. and Stuiver, M. 1995: Radiocarbon evidence for extensive plate-boundary rupture about 300 years ago at the Cascadia subduction zone. Nature 378, 371–74.
Nelson, A.R., Ota, Y., Umitsu, M., Kashima, K. and Matsushima, Y.
1998: Seismic or hydrodynamic control of rapid late-Holocene sea-level rises in southern coastal Oregon, USA. The Holocene 8, 287–99.
Nelson, A.R., Shennan, I. and Long, A.J. 1996: Identifying coseismic subsidence in tidal-wetland stratigraphic sequences at the Cascadia subduction zone of western North America. Journal of Geophysical Research 101, 6115–35.
Palmer, A.J.M. and Abbott, W.H. 1986: Diatoms as indicators of sealevel change. In van de Plassche, O., editor, Sea-level research: a manual for the collection and evaluation of data, Norwich: Geo Books, 457–88.
Patrick, R. and Reimer, C.W. 1966: The diatoms of the United States – volume I. Monographs of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 13. Pennsylvania: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 688.
Plafker, G. 1965: Tectonic deformation associated with the 1964 Alaska earthquake. Science 148, 1675–87.
—— 1969: Tectonics of the March 27, 1964, Alaska earthquake. US Geological Survey Professional Paper 543-I, 74 pp.
Reinhardt, E.G., Easton, N. and Paterson, R.T. 1996: Foraminiferal evidence of late Holocene sea-level change on Amerindian site distribution at Montagu Harbour, British Columbia. Ge´ographie Physique et Quaternaire 50, 35–46.
Rosenbaum, J.G. 1974: Theory of warping of southern Alaska before Alaska earthquake 1964. Journal of Geophysical Research 79, 3294–301.
Savage, J.C. and Plafker, G. 1991: Tide gauge measurements of uplift along the south coast of Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research 96, 4325–35.
Scholz, C.H. 1988: Mechanisms of seismic quiescences. Pure Applied Geophysics 126, 701–18.
Shennan, I., Long, A.J., Rutherford, M.M., Green, F.M., Innes, J.B., Lloyd, J.M., Zong, Y. and Walker, K.J. 1996: Tidal marsh stratigraphy, sea-level change and large earthquakes, 1: a 5000 year record in Washington, USA. Quaternary Science Reviews 15, 1023–59.
Shennan, I., Long, A.J., Rutherford, M.M., Innes, J.B., Green, F.M.
and Walker, K.J. 1998: Tidal marsh stratigraphy, sea-level change and large earthquakes II: submergence events during the last 3500 years at Netarts Bay, Oregon, USA. Quaternary Science Reviews 17, 365–93.
Shennan, I., Scott, D.B., Rutherford, M. and Zong, Y. 1999:Microfossil analysis of sediments representing the 1964 earthquakes, exposed at Girdwood Flats, Alaska, USA. Quaternary International 60, 55–73.
Small, J.B. and Parkin, E.J. 1967: Horizontal and vertical crustal movement in the Prince William Sound, Alaska, earthquake of 1964. Proceedings of UN Regional Cartographic Conference of Asia and Far East 8, 1–15.
Troels-Smith, J. 1955: Characterisation of unconsolidated sediments.
Danmarks Geologiske Undersïgelse Series IV 3, 38–73.
Tsubokawa, J., Ogawa, Y. and Hayashi, T. 1965: Crustal movements before and after the Niigata earthquake. Journal of Geodesy Society of Japan 10, 165–71.
Vos, P.C. and de Wolf, H. 1993: Diatoms as a tool for reconstructing sedimentary environments in coastal wetlands; methodological aspects.
Hydrobiologia 269/270, 285–96.
Wyss, M. and Habermann, R.E. 1988: Precursory seismic quiescence.
Pure Applied Geophysics 126, 319–32.
Zong, Y. 1997a: Implications of Paralia sulcata abundance in Scottish isolation basins. Diatom Research 12, 125–50.
—— 1997b:Mid- and late-Holocene sea-level changes in Roudsea Marsh, northwest England: a diatom biostratigraphical investigation. The Holocene 7, 311–23.
Zong, Y. and Horton, B.P. 1998: Diatom zones across intertidal  ats and coastal saltmarshes in Britain. Diatom Research 13, 375–94.
—— 1999: Diatom-based tidal-level transfer functions as an aid in reconstructing Quaternary history of sea-level movements in the UK. Journal of Quaternary Science 14, 153–67.

Department of Geography