, Volume 65, Issue 1, pp 219-239
Date: 24 Aug 2012

The hazard potential of the western segment of the Makran subduction zone, northern Arabian Sea

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Evaluating the hazard potential of the Makran subduction zone requires understanding the previous records of the large earthquakes and tsunamis. We address this problem by searching for earthquake and tectonic proxies along the Makran Coast and linking those observations with the available constraints on historical seismicity and the tell-tale characteristics of sea floor morphology. The earthquake of Mw 8.1 of 1945 and the consequent tsunami that originated on the eastern part of the Makran are the only historically known hazardous events in this region. The seismic status of the western part of the subduction zone outside the rupture area of the 1945 earthquake remains an enigma. The near-shore shallow stratigraphy of the central part of Makran near Chabahar shows evidence of seismically induced liquefaction that we attribute to the distant effects of the 1945 earthquake. The coastal sites further westward around Jask are remarkable for the absence of liquefaction features, at least at the shallow level. Although a negative evidence, this possibly implies that the western part of Makran Coast region may not have been impacted by near-field large earthquakes in the recent past—a fact also supported by the analysis of historical data. On the other hand, the elevated marine terraces on the western Makran and their uplift rates are indicative of comparable degree of long-term tectonic activity, at least around Chabahar. The offshore data suggest occurrences of recently active submarine slumps on the eastern part of the Makran, reflective of shaking events, owing to the great 1945 earthquake. The ocean floor morphologic features on the western segment, on the contrary, are much subdued and the prograding delta lobes on the shelf edge also remain intact. The coast on the western Makran, in general, shows indications of progradation and uplift. The various lines of evidence thus suggest that although the western segment is potentially seismogenic, large earthquakes have not occurred there in the recent past, at least during the last 600 years. The recurrence period of earthquakes may range up to 1,000 years or more, an assessment based on the age of the youngest dated coastal ridge. The long elapsed time points to the fact that the western segment may have accumulated sufficient slip to produce a major earthquake.