QUATERNARY FAULTING IN BLOUNT COUNTY TENNESSEE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR ACTIVE TECTONISM IN THE EASTERN TENNESSEE SEISMIC ZONE
Recent fieldwork within the ETSZ documents a N60°E zone of Quaternary faulting containing several NE-SW striking thrust, normal, and strike-slip faults in exposures of Quaternary alluvium as well as numerous NE-SW trending Quaternary cobble-filled fractures in Paleozoic shale and shale saprolite along the Little Tennessee River, French Broad River, and now the Little River. Available OSL dates delimit faulting to <25 ka. A newly recognized fault (N70°E, 40°SE) exposed along the Little River in Blount County, TN reveals two episodes of thrust displacement of Quaternary alluvium with 1 m of cumulative dip slip and 80 cm of structural relief. Each event produced a scarp and colluvial wedge. The event horizon of the first paleo-earthquake shows no sign of weathering or soil formation, so the two events may have been relatively close in time. Based on dip slip, magnitudes of these events were >M6. OSL ages for alluvium bracketing these two paleo-earthquakes are forthcoming.
Some ETSZ Quaternary faults have been found in Paleozoic shales with approximately the same bedding attitude as that of the Quaternary faults (N45-075°E, dip SE), suggesting there may be local co-seismic slip on bedding during seismogenic faulting at depth. The modern N70°E SHmax may exploit favorably oriented, pre-existing planes of weakness in near-surface Paleozoic shales during rupture on a N60°E fault at depth. Thus, Paleozoic structural trends and lithologic strength may place controls on the orientation and formation of active surface-rupturing faults.