Chapter 1-2:The Cassini RADAR mapper has imaged elevated blocks and mountains on Titan we term ‘ridges’. Two unresolved problems regarding Titan's surface are still debated: what is the origin of its ridges and was there tectonic activity on Titan? To understand the processes that produced the ridges, in this study, (1) we analyze the distribution and orientation of ridges through systematic geomorphologic mapping and (2) we compare the location of the ridges to a new global topographic map to explore the correlation between elevation and ridges and the implications for Titan's surface evolution. Globally, the orientation of ridges is nearly E-W and the ridges are more common near the equator than at the poles, which suggests a tectonic origin for most of the ridges on Titan. In addition, the ridges are found to preferentially lie at higher-than-average elevations near the equator. We conclude the most reasonable formation scenario for Titan's ridges is that contractional tectonism built the ridges and thickened the icy lithosphere, causing regional uplift. The combination of global and regional tectonic events, likely contractional in nature, plus enhanced fluvial erosion and sedimentation near the poles, would have contributed to shaping Titan's tectonic landforms and surface morphology to what we see today. However, contractional structures (i.e. thrusts and folds) require large stresses (8~10 MPa), the sources of which probably do not exist on Titan. Liquid hydrocarbons in Titan's near subsurface must play a role similar to that of water on Earth and lead to fluid overpressures, which enable contractional deformation at smaller stresses (< 1MPa) by significantly reducing the shear strength of materials. We show that crustal conditions with enhanced pore fluid pressures on Titan favor the formation of thrust faults and related folds, in a contractional stress field. The production of folds, as on Earth, is facilitated by the presence of crustal liquids to weaken the crust. These hydrocarbon fluids have played a key role in Titan's tectonic evolutionary history, leaving it the only icy body on which strong evidence for contractional tectonism exists. Chapter 3: Arthur Wichmann's ‘Earthquakes of the Indian Archipelago’ documents several large earthquakes and tsunami throughout the Banda Arc region that can be interpreted as mega-thrust events. However, the source regions of these events are not known. One of the largest and well-documented events in the catalog is the great earthquake and tsunami affecting the Banda islands on 1 August 1629. It caused severe damage from a 15-meter tsunami that arrived at the Banda Islands about a half hour after violent shaking stopped. The earthquake was also recorded 230 km away in Ambon, but no tsunami is mentioned. This event was followed by at least 9 years of uncommonly frequent seismic activity in the region that tapered off with time, which can be interpreted as aftershocks. The combination of these observations indicates that the earthquake was most likely a mega-thrust event. We use an inverse modeling approach to numerically reconstruct the tsunami, which constrains the likely location and magnitude of the 1629 earthquake. Only linear numerical models are applied due to the low-resolution of bathymetry in the Banda Islands and Ambon. Therefore, we apply various wave amplification factors (1.5 to 4) derived from simulations of recent, well-constrained tsunami to bracket the upper and lower limits of earthquake moment magnitudes for the event. The closest major earthquake sources to the Banda Islands are the Tanimbar and Seram Troughs of the Banda subduction/collision zone. Other source regions are too far away for such a short arrival time of the tsunami after shaking. Moment magnitudes predicted by the models in order to produce a 15 m tsunami are Mw of 9.8 to 9.2 on the Tanimbar Trough and Mw 8.8 to 8.2 on the Seram Trough. The arrival times of these waves are 58 minutes for Tanimbar Trough and 30 minutes for Seram Trough. The model also predicts 5 meters run-up for Ambon from a Tanimbar Trough source, which is inconsistent with the historical records. Ambon is mostly shielded from a wave generated by a Seram Trough Source.We conclude that the most likely source of the 1629 mega-thrust earthquake is the Seram Trough. Only one earthquake > Mw 8.0 is recorded instrumentally from the eastern Indonesia region although high rates of strain (50-80 mm/a) are measured across the Seram section of the Banda subduction zone. Enough strain has already accumulated since the last major historical event to produce an earthquake of similar size to the 1629 event. Due to the rapid population growth in coastal areas in this region, it is imperative that the most vulnerable coastal areas prepare accordingly.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Titan, Saturn, Icy satellites, Tectonics, Radar Observations, Structural Geology, Geological Mapping, Fluid pore pressure, lithospheric strength, Tsunami modeling, Indonesia, Banda arc, Seram Trough, Tanimbar Trough, Banda Islands, Ambon, Mega-thrust earthquakes

Included in

Geology Commons