Multiarchive paleoseismic record of late Pleistocene and Holocene strong earthquakes in Switzerland


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A multiarchive approach has been applied to the investigation of the late Pleistocene and Holocene record of strong earthquakes in Switzerland. The geological archives used for this study include active faults, lake deposits, slope instabilities, and caves. In the Basle area, eight trenches were opened across the Basle–Reinach fault, nearby rockfall deposits were systematically investigated, sediment cores were taken from two lakes, and nine caves were studied. In Central Switzerland, five lakes were investigated by means of high-resolution seismic lines and sediment cores. Furthermore, three caves were studied in Central Switzerland. Altogether, the investigations are based on more than 350 km of high-resolution reflection seismic lines, 450 m of core samples, 260 m of trenches, and 245 radiocarbon age determinations. The measured co-seismic displacements along the Basle–Reinach fault supply independent information for the magnitude of the AD 1356 Basle earthquake exclusively based on geological evidence. Deformation features related to three well-documented strong historic earthquake shocks were identified. Deformation features of the AD 1774 Altdorf and AD 1601 Unterwalden earthquakes can be used to calibrate paleoseismic evidence in Central Switzerland. Altogether, traces of 13 earthquakes could be found in the two study areas, all of them with magnitudes Mw ∼ 6 or greater. For the first time, the earthquake catalogue for Switzerland can be extended back beyond historic records, into the late Pleistocene, spanning 15,000 years.

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