Dr. Tom Rockwell, Paula Figueiredo, and João Cabral have published a new paper in a Special Issue of the Annals of Geophysices for Earthquake Geology. The paper studies marine terraces along southwest mainland Portugal to better the recent tectonic activity of the Iberian Peninsula.  This is the first research in the area to identify earthquake history and uplift rates.

Recognition of Pleistocene marine terraces in the southwest of Portugal (Iberian Peninsula): evidences of regional Quaternary uplift

Paula M. Figueiredo1,2,*, João Cabral1,2, Thomas K. Rockwell3

1 Instituto Dom Luiz, IDL, Lisbon, Portugal
2 Lisbon University, Science Faculty, Geology Department, Lisbon, Portugal
3 San Diego State University, Geological Sciences Department, San Diego, CA, United States


Southwest mainland Portugal is located close to the Eurasia-Nubia plate boundary and is characterized by moderate seismicity, although strong events have occurred as in 1755 (Mw≥8), 1969, (Mw 7.9), and more recently in 2007 (Mw 5.9) and 2009 (Mw 5.5), all located in the offshore. No historical earthquakes with onshore rupture are known for this region. At the coastline, high sea cliffs, incised drainages, emergent marine abrasion platforms and paleo sea cliffs indicate that this region is undergoing uplift, although no morphological features were found that could be unequivocally associated with the 1755 mega earthquake. To better understand the recent tectonic activity in this sector of Iberia, it is necessary not only to analyze active structures on land, but also to search for evidence for deformation that may relate to inferred offshore active structures. We thus conducted a study of marine terraces along the coastline to identify regional vertical crustal motions. Several poorly preserved surfaces with thin sedimentary deposits, comprising old beach sediments, were recognized at elevations starting at 2 m elevation and rising inland up to a regional abrasion platform situated at about 120 m a.s.l.. We identified distinct paleo sea level references at several locations at consistent elevations. This terrace sequence is likely Late Pleistocene in age, with individual platforms correlative to MIS 5 high stands and is coherent with a long-term slow uplift of the littoral zone for the southwest of Portugal. Although dating of discrete platforms is an ongoing and difficult task, preliminary correlations of paleo-shoreline elevations suggest that the uplift rate is in the range of 0.1-0.2 mm/yr.

BSSAFIGUEIREDO, Paula M.; CABRAL, João; ROCKWELL, Thomas K.. Recognition of Pleistocene marine terraces in the southwest of Portugal (Iberian Peninsula): evidences of regional Quaternary uplift. Annals of Geophysics, [S.l.], v. 56, n. 6, feb. 2014. ISSN 2037-416X. doi:10.4401/ag-6276.