Alaska Earthquake, March 27, 1964: Lessons and Conclusions   [open pdf - 9MB]

"One of the greatest earthquakes of all time struck south-central Alaska on March 27, 1964. Strong motion lasted longer than for most recorded earthquakes, and more land surface was dislocated, vertically and horizontally, than by any known previous temblor. Never before were so many effects on earth processes and on the works of man available for study by scientists and engineers over so great an area. The seismic vibrations, which directly or indirectly caused most of the damage, were but surface manifestations of a great geologic event-the dislocation of a huge segment of the crust along a deeply buried fault whose nature and even exact location are still subjects for speculation. Not only was the land surface tilted by the great tectonic event beneath it, with resultant seismic sea waves that traversed the entire Pacific, but an enormous mass of land and sea floor moved several tens of feet horizontally toward the Gulf of Alaska. Downslope mass movements of rock, earth, and snow were initiated. Subaqueous slides along lake shores and seacoasts, near-horizontal movements of mobilized soil ('landspreading'), and giant translatory slides in sensitive clay did the most damage and provided the most new knowledge as to the origin, mechanics, and possible means of control or avoidance of such movements. The slopes of most of the deltas that slid in 1964, and that produced destructive local waves, are still as steep or steeper than they were before the earthquake and hence would be unstable or metastable in the event of another great earthquake. Rockslide avalanches provided new evidence that such masses may travel on cushions of compressed air, but a widely held theory that glaciers surge after an earthquake has not been substantiated. Innumerable ground fissures, many of them marked by copious emissions of water, caused much damage in towns and along transportation routes. Vibration also consolidated loose granular materials. In some coastal areas, local subsidence was superimposed on regional tectonic subsidence to heighten the flooding damage. Ground and surface waters were measurably affected by the earthquake, not only in Alaska but throughout the world."

Report Number:
Geological Survey Professional Paper No. 546
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
U.S. Geological Survey: http://www.usgs.gov/
Media Type:
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