Late Holocene relative sea level changes in SW Crete: evidence of an unusual earthquake cycle

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S. C. Stiros


Coastal challenges ill West Crete ill the last 4000 years can be described as a series of 11 relatively small (25 cm on the average) land subsidences alternating with short (150-250 year long) relatively still stands of the sea level. At 1500 B.P. an up to 9 m episodic relative land uplift and tilting of this part of the island occurred, but since then no significant coastal changes have been identified. There is strong evidence that these Late Holocene coastal changes are not a product of fluctuations of sea level, but reflect palaeoseismic events. The sequence of the latter is at variance with models of seismic deformation deduced from a wide range of observations in different tectonic environments, including coastal uplifts near major trenches: according to these models, strain buildup and release through earthquakes is described as a cyclic and rather uniform process, the earthquake cycle. In this process, the permanent seismic deformation accumulates after each earthquake to produce geological features, while the long-term deformation rate is approximately equal to the short term one. Obviously this is not the case with West Crete. The unusual pattern of seismic deformation in this island has been observed in other cases as well, but its explanation is not easy. The juxtaposition of different earthquake cycles, variations in the source and rate of stress or internal deformation of the uplifted hanging wall of a thrust in the pre-seismic period are some possible explanations for this unusual pattern of earthquake cycle in Greece.

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Stiros SC. Late Holocene relative sea level changes in SW Crete: evidence of an unusual earthquake cycle. Ann. Geophys. [Internet]. 1996Nov.25 [cited 2022Jun.29];39(3). Available from: