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Keywords:

  • earthquakes;
  • lake sediments;
  • palaeoseismology;
  • recurrence time;
  • seismic hazard

Summary

Palaeoseismological investigations in the lakes of Seewen and Bergsee in the Basle region, Switzerland and southern Germany, revealed characteristic event horizons in an otherwise uniform background sedimentary record. Dated and correlated based on radiocarbon ages, palynostratigraphy and sedimentation rates, some of these event horizons show soft-sediment deformation features and fractures that can be interpretated as being the result of earthquake shaking. Two of the event horizons with clear indications for earthquake deformation were detected in both lakes, showing approximately the same age as indicated by radiocarbon dating. A third event horizon with fractures of apparent seismogenic origin, was detected at several drill sites in only one lake (Bergsee). Three further event horizons, two in the Bergsee and one in Lake Seewen, are of uncertain origin, though they show some characteristics that could well be caused by earthquakes. Based on the observations in both lakes, five events were detected of which three are most probably related to earthquakes which occurred between 180 BC–1160 BC, 8260 BC–9040 BC and 10 720 BC–11 200 BC, respectively. The Basle region is well known for the strongest historical earthquake north of the Alps, the AD 1356 Basle earthquake. Based on combined historical and palaeoseismological data, it has been inferred that earthquakes with size comparable to the AD 1356 Basle earthquake have occurred several times within the last 12 000 yr and that the recurrence time for such strong earthquakes are in the range of 1500–3000 yr.