Are submarine landslides an underestimated hazard on the western North Atlantic passive margin?

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Abstract

The western North Atlantic passive margin is considered relatively stable, with few slope instabilities recognized during the Holocene. However, new multibeam bathymetry mapping and sediment core acquisition off eastern Canada indicate that previously unidentified, large, submarine landslide events occurred during the Late Holocene, between 4 and 1.5 ka. The recognition of these new gravitational events, in addition to the well-known C.E. 1929 Grand Banks earthquake-induced landslide, indicates that approximately one large landslide event per 1000 years has occurred offshore eastern Canada within the past 4000 years, a much shorter recurrence interval than hitherto reported. This Late Holocene recurrence rate is also similar to active margins around the world and is likely due to the under-consolidation and resultant instability of Scotian Slope sediments attributable to high glacial sedimentation rates. The discovery of these new Late Holocene landslides was made possible through detailed examination of cores recovered from the lower slope. These results demonstrate that submarine landslide hazard has been underestimated on the western North Atlantic margin- home to significant submarine infrastructure and proximal to a large coastal population.

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Normandeau, A., Campbell, D. C., Piper, D. J. W., & Jenner, K. A. (2019). Are submarine landslides an underestimated hazard on the western North Atlantic passive margin? Geology, 47(9), 848–852. https://doi.org/10.1130/G46201.1

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