Seismotectonic implications of sand blows in the southern Mississippi Embayment


We explore seismically-induced sand blows from the southern Mississippi Embayment and their implications in resolving the question of near or distal epicentral source region. This was accomplished using aerial photography, field excavations, and cone penetration tests. Our analysis shows that three sand blow fields exhibit a distinct chronology of strong ground motion for the southern embayment: (1) The Ashley County, Arkansas sand blow field, near the Arkansas/Louisiana state border, experienced four Holocene sand venting episodes; (2) to the north, the Desha County field experienced at least three episodes of liquefaction; and (3) the Lincoln-Jefferson Counties field experienced at least one episode. Cone penetration tests (CPT) conducted in and between the sand blow fields suggest that the fields may not be distal liquefaction associated with New Madrid seismic zone earthquakes but rather are likely associated with strong earthquakes on local faults. This conclusion is consistent with the differences in timing of the southern embayment sand venting episodes and those in the New Madrid seismic zone. These results suggest that active tectonism and strong seismicity in intraplate North America may not be localized at isolated weak spots, but rather widespread on fault systems that are favorably oriented for slip in the contemporary stress field. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Engineering Geology