Seismically-induced down-sagging structures in tephra layers (tephra-seismites) preserved in lakes since 17.5 cal ka, Hamilton lowlands, New Zealand

We analysed numerous soft-sediment deformation structures (SSDSs) identified in seven unconsolidated, up to 8-cmthick, siliceous tephra layers that had been deposited in ~35 riverine-phytogenic lakeswithin the Hamilton lowlands, northern North Island, New Zealand, since 17.5 calendar (cal) ka BP. Based on sediment/tephra descriptions and X-ray computed tomography scanning of cores taken from ten lakes, we classified these SSDSs into elongated load structures (i.e., down-sagging structures) of different dimensions, ranging from millimetre- to decimetre-scale and centimetre-long dykes. Down-sagging structures were commonly manifested as intrusions of internal tephra beds of very fine to medium sand into underlying organic lake sediments. The tephra layers commonly exhibited an upper silt bed, which was not directly affected by deformation. Dry bulk density and grain size distribution analyses of both the organic lake sediment and the internal tephra beds provided evidence for the deformation mechanism of down-sagging structures and their driving force: the organic lake sediment and the upper silt bed are less liquefiable, whereas the very fine to medium sand internal tephra beds are liquefiable. The tephra layers and encapsulating organic lake sediments formed three layer (a–b–a) density systems, where ‘a’ denotes the sediment unit of lower density. We infer that downward directed deformation was favoured by the a–b–a density system with the upper, less-liquefiable, silt bed within the tephra layer preventing upward intrusion during the liquefaction process. The spatial distribution and ages of SSDSs within the lakes provided some evidence that liquefaction of the older tephra layers, i.e., Rerewhakaaitu, Rotorua, and Waiohau tephras, deposited 17.5, 15.6, and 14 cal ka BP, respectively, was triggered by a seismic source to the northeast of the Hamilton lowlands (i.e., Kerepehi and/or Te Puninga faults). In contrast, the liquefaction of the younger tephra layers, i.e., Opepe, Mamaku, and Tuhua tephras, deposited 10.0, 8.0, and 7.6 cal ka BP, respectively, may have been triggered by movement on local faults within the Hamilton lowlands, namely the Hamilton Basin faults, or by distant faulting at the Hikurangi subduction margin east of North Island.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Elsevier BV
© 2023 Elsevier. This is an author’s accepted version of an article published in Sedimentary Geology.