Active Normal Faulting in the Upper Rhine Graben and Paleoseismic Identification of the 1356 Basel Earthquake

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Science  14 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5537, pp. 2070-2073
DOI: 10.1126/science.1010618

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We have identified an active normal fault in the epicentral area of the Basel (Switzerland) earthquake of 18 October 1356, the largest historical seismic event in central Europe. The event of 1356 and two prehistoric events have been characterized on the fault with geomorphological analysis, geophysical prospecting, and trenching. Carbon-14 dating indicates that the youngest event occurred in the interval 610 to 1475 A.D. and may correspond to the 1356 Basel earthquake. The occurrence of the three earthquakes induced a total of 1.8 meters of vertical displacement in the past 8500 years for a mean uplift rate of 0.21 millimeters per year. These successive ruptures on the normal fault indicate the potential for strong ground movements in the Basel region and should be taken into account to refine the seismic hazard estimates along the Rhine graben.

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