US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 95, NO. B5, PAGES 6685-6698, MAY 10, 1990.


Marine terraces are prominent landforms along the southern Oregon coast, which forms part of the forearc region of the Cascadia subduction zone. Interest in the Cascadia subduction zone has increased because recent investigations have suggested that slip along plates at certain types of convergent margins is characteristically accompanied by large earthquakes. In addition, other investigations have suggested that convergent margins can be broadly classified by the magnitude of their uplift rates. With these hypotheses in mind, we generated new uranium series, amino acid, and stable isotope data for southern Oregon marine terrace fossils. These data, along with terrace elevations and two alternative estimates of sea level at the time of terrace formation, allow us to determine terrace ages and uplift rates. Uranium series analysis of fossil coral yields an age of 83 ± 5 ka for the Whisky Run terrace at Coquille Point in Bandon, Oregon. A combination of amino acid and oxygen isotope data suggest ages of about 80 and 105 ka for the lowest two terraces at Cape Blanco. These ages indicate uplift rates of 0.45-1.05 and 0.81-1.49 m/kyr for Coquille Point and Cape Blanco, respectively. Late Quaternary uplift rates of marine terraces yield information about deformation in the overriding plate, but it is unclear if such data vary systematically with convergent margin type. In order to assess the utility of the southern Oregon uplift rates for predicting the behavior of the Cascadia subduction zone, we compared late Quaternary uplift rates derived from terrace data from subduction zones around the world. On the basis of this comparison the southern Oregon rates of vertical deformation are not unusually high or low. Furthermore, late Quaternary uplift rates show little relationship to the type of convergent margin. These observations suggest that local structures may play a large role in uplift rate variability. In addition, while the type of convergent margin may place an upper limit on possible uplift rate, greater upper limits serve to increase the range of possible uplift rates. In the case of the southern Oregon coast, variability in uplift rate probably reflects local structures in the overriding plate, and the rate of uplift cannot be used as a simple index of the potential for great earthquakes along the southern Cascadia subduction zone.