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Two twentieth-century MLH = 7.5 earthquakes recorded in annually laminated lake sediments from Sary Chelek, western Tian Shan, Kyrgyzstan

  • Stefan Lauterbach (a1), Jens Mingram (a2), Georg Schettler (a2) and Sagynbek Orunbaev (a3)

Abstract

Central Asia is highly vulnerable to large earthquakes, yet existing records of past seismic activity in this area are still insufficient to reliably assess regional earthquake hazard on longer timescales. Within this study, the sediments of Sary Chelek, a mountain lake in the western Kyrgyz Tian Shan, were investigated to explore its potential as a natural paleoseismic archive. The lacustrine deposits are characterized by a succession of annually laminated (varved) sediments overlying event deposits that consist of large-scale turbidites and distorted lake sediments, similar to earthquake-related deposits described from other lake sediment records. Microscopic sediment analysis furthermore revealed distorted varves in the laminated sequence that closely resemble earthquake-related soft-sediment deformation structures. Varve counting and radiometric dating determine the formation of the distorted varves and the emplacement of the large-scale event deposits to the early 1990s and mid-1940s, respectively. This is in good temporal agreement with the occurrence of two large earthquakes that struck western Kyrgyzstan in AD 1992 and AD 1946. These results and particularly the precise age control of the Sary Chelek sediment record highlight its potential for establishing a long and precisely dated record of regional earthquake activity.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author at: Leibniz Laboratory for Radiometric Dating and Stable Isotope Research, Kiel University, Max-Eyth-Str. 11–13, 24118 Kiel, Germany. E-mail address: slauterbach@leibniz.uni-kiel.de (Stefan Lauterbach).

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