The empirical probability of submarine mass failure is quantified from a sequence of dated mass-transport deposits. Several different techniques are described to estimate the parameters for a suite of candidate probability models. The techniques, previously developed for analyzing paleoseismic data, include maximum likelihood and Type II (Bayesian) maximum likelihood methods derived from renewal process theory and Monte Carlo methods. The estimated mean return time from these methods, unlike estimates from a simple arithmetic mean of the center age dates and standard likelihood methods, includes the effects of age-dating uncertainty and of open time intervals before the first and after the last event. The likelihood techniques are evaluated using Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC) and Akaike’s Bayesian Information Criterion (ABIC) to select the optimal model. The techniques are applied to mass transport deposits recorded in two Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) drill sites located in the Ursa Basin, northern Gulf of Mexico. Dates of the deposits were constrained by regional bio- and magnetostratigraphy from a previous study. Results of the analysis indicate that submarine mass failures in this location occur primarily according to a Poisson process in which failures are independent and return times follow an exponential distribution. However, some of the model results suggest that submarine mass failures may occur quasiperiodically at one of the sites (U1324). The suite of techniques described in this study provides quantitative probability estimates of submarine mass failure occurrence, for any number of deposits and age uncertainty distributions.
- Received 1 June 2012.
- Revision received 10 January 2013.
- Accepted 23 January 2013.
- © 2013 Geological Society of America