Guatemala paleoseismicity: From Late Classic Maya collapse to recent fault creep

Gilles Brocard, Flavio S. Anselmetti, Christian Teyssier

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9 Scopus citations


We combine 'on-fault' trench observations of slip on the Polochic fault (North America-Caribbean plate boundary) with a 1200 years-long â near-fault' record of seismo-turbidite generation in a lake located within 2 km of the fault. The lake record indicates that, over the past 12 centuries, 10 earthquakes reaching ground-shaking intensities ≥ VI generated seismo-turbidites in the lake. Seismic activity was highly unevenly distributed over time and noticeably includes a cluster of earthquakes spread over a century at the end of the Classic Maya period. This cluster may have contributed to the piecemeal collapse of the Classic Maya civilization in this wet, mountainous southern part of the Maya realm. On-fault observations within 7 km of the lake show that soils formed between 1665 and 1813 CE were displaced by the Polochic fault during a long period of seismic quiescence, from 1450 to 1976 CE. Displacement on the Polochic fault during at least the last 480 years included a component of slip that was aseismic, or associated with very light seismicity (magnitude <5 earthquakes). Seismicity of the plate boundary is therefore either non-cyclic, or dominated by long-period cycles (>1 ky) punctuated by destructive earthquake clusters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36976
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - Nov 15 2016

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