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Vented sediments and tsunami deposits in the Puget Lowland, Washington – differentiating sedimentary processes



The sandy deposits produced by tsunamis and liquefaction share many sedimentary features, and distinctions between the two are important in seismically active coastal zones. Both types of deposits are present in the wetlands bordering Puget Sound, where one or more earthquakes about 1100 years ago caused both tsunami flooding and sediment venting. This co-occurrence allows an examination of the resulting deposits and a comparison with tsunami and liquefaction features of modern events. Vented sediments occur at four of five wetland field localities and tsunami deposits at two. In comparison with tsunami deposits, vented sediments in this study and from other studies tend to be thicker (although they can be thin). Vented sediments also have more variable thickness at both outcrop and map scale, are associated with injected dykes and contain clasts derived from underlying deposits. Further, vented sediments tend to contain a greater variety of sedimentary structures, and these structures vary laterally over metres. Tsunami deposits compared with vented sediments are commonly thinner, fine and thin landward more consistently, have more uniform thickness on outcrop and map scales, and have the potential of containing coarser clasts, up to boulders. For both tsunami deposits and vented sediments, the availability and grain size of source material condition the characteristics of the deposit. In the cases presented in this paper, both foraminifera and diatom assemblages within tsunami deposits and vented sediments consisted of brackish and marine species, and no distinction between processes could be made based on microfossils. In summary, this study indicates a need for more careful analysis and mapping of coastal sediments associated with earthquakes to avoid misidentification of processes and misevaluation of hazards.