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Impact of fires, earthquakes, and climate on catchment response since 600 CE, Pallett Creek, San Gabriel Mountains, California USA

Katherine M. Scharer, Jenifer Leidelmeijer, Matthew E. Kirby, Nicole Bonuso, & Devin McPhillips

Published August 5, 2021, SCEC Contribution #11177, 2021 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #059

In tectonically active regions, sedimentary records are overprinted by landscape response to climate, fire, and local earthquakes. We explore this issue using a new paleoclimate record developed at the Pallett Creek paleoseismic site in southern California USA, a recently incised distal fan located along the San Andreas Fault at the base of a 35 km2 catchment in the San Gabriel Mountains. To date, we have analyzed 6 m of section, spanning the last 1300 yr, for grain size, total organic material (TOM), carbon/nitrogen (C/N) ratios, magnetic susceptibility, and charcoal count. Existing C-14 dates (Scharer et al., 2011) inform rates of sediment deposition and charcoal accumulation (CHAR). Additional dating and macrofossil analysis is ongoing. Sedimentological variability within the section is dominated by two general units. Unit 1 is characterized by high % clay, % silt, and % TOM, while Unit 2 is distinctly coarser with higher % sand and lower % TOM. Pulses of high CHAR occur from 1150-1260 yr BP and during the Little Ice Age (100-500 yr BP) and are associated with high sedimentation rates (0.3-2 cm/yr), while only a few relatively weak fire episodes are recorded in the Medieval Climate Anomaly (700-1000 yr BP), despite similarly high sedimentation rates (0.6 cm/yr). Ten earthquakes documented at the site (Sieh et al., 1989) occurred about every 135 years and impart no obvious short-term impact on sedimentation rates, perhaps reflecting the distance between the site and steeper portions of the drainage network (>4 km) likely to produce mass wasting. Overall, the landscape response of this large, integrated catchment appears to reflect a stronger influence of fire and climate than earthquakes. Future work will focus on the impact of the fire episodes on sediment delivery and resultant paleoearthquake ages.

Key Words
Climate change, charcoal, paleoearthquake

Scharer, K. M., Leidelmeijer, J., Kirby, M. E., Bonuso, N., & McPhillips, D. (2021, 08). Impact of fires, earthquakes, and climate on catchment response since 600 CE, Pallett Creek, San Gabriel Mountains, California USA. Poster Presentation at 2021 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Earthquake Geology