The catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis in Sumatra 2004; Haiti 2010; Chile 2010 and Japan 2011 caused devastating loss of life and property, and heightened public awareness to these natural hazards and of their consequence for the heavily populated coastal regions of the world. Recent research applies new methodologies to document pre-instrumental earthquake ruptures along fault segments of tectonics boundaries. We use high-resolution geophysical instruments and sediment sampling to study the seafloor and subbottom layers along transform and convergent plate boundaries in Turkey, Haiti, the Mediterranean and Sunda Subduction System in the Indian Ocean.
Other research investigates paleoceanographic signals from sediments recovered in the Marmara Sea and Black Sea marginal basins in Turkey. The reconnections of these basins to the world's ocean after the Last Glacial Maximum tracks global sea-level due to the dramatic sedimentation changes and complete replacement in the fauna and flora that occurs as these basins change from lacustrine to marine settings. Long-term research (5 Ocean Drilling Program Legs, Alvin Dives, and 21 oceanographic cruises) includes studies of the monsoons initiation along the west coast of Australia and sea-level changes offshore New Zealand and New Jersey Continental Margins.
Closer to home we are studying Sandy Hook Bay, the Hudson River estuary, Long Island Sound and the southern shore of Long Island to assess the impact of anthropogenic activities and Super Strom Sandy on the sediments and health of ecosystems. Students are measuring heavy metals, organic matter concentrations, and interpreting the data in terms of coastal and estuarine processes. The evolution of the local estuaries that were covered by ice ~20,000 ago and recorded in their sediments the transition from glacial deposits to a fresh water lakes, marine transgression, estuarine sedimentation and anthropogenic impact.
Recent research focuses on Bangladesh. A country where seismic risk is high, fluvial processes of the Ganges-Brahmaputra system mighty, and where ~160 million people inhabit at or near coastal zones. An international, multinstitutional program is being implemented to study these risks.
McHugh, C.M.G., Fulthorpe, C., Hoyanagi, K., Blum, P., Mountain, G. (submitted). Pleistocene seismic sequences may result from eustatic change but can they be used for global correlations? New Insights from the Canterbury Basin, New Zealand. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems #2014GC005597.
McHugh, C.M.G., Seeber, L., Cormier, M.-H., Hornbach, M., 2014. Submarine paleoseismology along populated transform boundaries: The Enriquillo-Plantain-Garden Fault, Canal du Sud, Haiti, and the North Anatolian Fault, Marmara Sea, Turkey. Oceanography 27(2):118-131.
McHugh, C. M. G. , Braudy, N., Cagatay, M. N., Sorlien, C., Cormier, M.-H., Seeber, L., Henry, P., 2014. Seafloor Ruptures Along the North Anatolia Fault in the Marmara Sea, Turkey: Link with the Adjacent Basin Turbidite Record. Marine Geology 353:65-83.
McHugh, C., Seeber, L., Braudy, N., Cormier, M.-H., Davis, M., Dieudonne, N., Deming, J., Diebold, J., Douilly, R., Gulick, S., Hornbach, M., Johnson, H., Mishkin, K., Sorlien, C., Steckler, M., Symithe, S., Templeton, J., 2011. Offshore sedimentary effects of the 12 January Haiti earthquake. Geology 39, 8, 723-726. doi:10.1130/G31815.1
McHugh, C.M., Hartin, C., Mountain, G.S., Gould, H., 2010. The role of glacio-eustasy in sequence formation: Mid-Atlantic Continental Margin, USA. Marine Geology 277, p. 33-47. doi:10.1016/j.margeo.2010.08.009
Senior Adjunct Researcher, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
of Columbia University