EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Quantifying submarine mass-wasting and links to seismicity along the Roseau normal fault, Lesser Antilles

Alex Hughes1, Javier Escartín1,2, Jean-Arthur Olive2, Jeremy Billant3, Christine Deplus1, Nathalie Feuillet1, Frédérique Leclerc3, and Luca Malatesta4
Alex Hughes et al.
  • 1Université de Paris, Institut de physique du globe de Paris, CNRS, F-75005 Paris, France
  • 2Laboratoire de Géologie, Ecole Normale Supérieure (CNRS UMR 8538), PSL Research University, Paris, France
  • 3Université Côte d'Azur, CNRS, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, IRD, Géoazur, Valbonne, France
  • 4GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany

At the scale of individual faults, few studies have investigated fundamental interactions between active faulting, erosion, and deposition in submarine landscapes dominated by magmatic and volcaniclastic deposits with thin sedimentary cover. Such landscapes comprise a high percentage of the global seafloor. Therefore, there is a significant gap in our understanding of first-order processes of erosion and deposition for a large portion of the Earth’s surface. The paucity of studies derives mainly from challenges involved in the acquisition of high-resolution bathymetry and seafloor data in a deep-marine environment. In this study, we use bathymetry data obtained with autonomous deep-sea vehicles and processed to obtain a 1-m resolution digital elevation model along the active Roseau normal fault, in the Lesser Antilles volcanic arc. The Roseau fault was the source of the 2004 Mw6.3 Les Saintes earthquake, and Mw 5-6 events are thought to occur on the Roseau fault every few thousand years. Building on the work of Vilaseca (MSc Thesis, 2015), we quantify the height, slope, and volume eroded from a well-defined fault scarp created by the Roseau fault and calculate volumes for a series of erosional footwall catchments developed in the scarp. We also quantify the volume and morphology of a series of dejection cones in the hanging wall of the Roseau fault to facilitate mass-balancing between the hanging wall and footwall of the scarp.


Mass-balancing indicates that in isolated basins, where the primary supply of sediment is from the adjacent footwall scarp, dejection cone volumes are around half of the total volume of material eroded from the individual footwall catchments. Geomorphological analyses show that dejection cones have surface slopes as high as 30°and form as radial depositional features adjacent to catchment outlets. The results of the mass-balancing, the high slope values for the cone surface, and the identification of >1 m sized blocks of eroded material present on the cone surfaces indicate that dejection cones form through episodic, coseismic and/or post-seismic, gravitationally driven mass-wasting of the uplifting footwall scarp. Preliminary morphometric analysis of the Roseau fault scarp potentially indicates that erosion of normal fault scarps in volcaniclastic and magmatic deposits may primarily occur beyond a threshold in fault scarp height between ~40­­–70 m. Above ~40–70 m height, erosional catchments may begin to develop on the footwall scarp and average scarp slope decreases with increasing scarp height until average slope values reach an equilibrium of ~35°. The quantitative survey of the Roseau fault scarp in this study demonstrates that episodic earthquake-related mass-wasting is a key erosional process for volcanic and sedimentary deposits in submarine landscapes. Furthermore, the results presented here will be used as first-order inputs to develop models of seafloor erosion and apply them to understand submarine landscape evolution of the oceanic lithosphere.

How to cite: Hughes, A., Escartín, J., Olive, J.-A., Billant, J., Deplus, C., Feuillet, N., Leclerc, F., and Malatesta, L.: Quantifying submarine mass-wasting and links to seismicity along the Roseau normal fault, Lesser Antilles, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-19360,, 2020.