Geology

A Slump in Paleoseismology

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Science  13 Dec 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5601, pp. 2093
DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5601.2093c

Large earthquakes often spur mass sediment movements, such as the submarine slumps that generate tsunamis. Correlating in time and space precisely dated slump deposits should thus provide a chronology of prehistoric seismicity in intraplate settings such as central Europe, where the historical record of earthquakes is spotty.

Using a grid of high-resolution seismic profiles, Schnellmann et al. identified in the subsurface of Lake Lucerne 13 synchronous slump deposits that were associated with the magnitude 6.2 earthquake of 1601. Applying the subsurface “fingerprint” of that event to deeper stratigraphic horizons on the profiles and dating material from sediment cores, they then found four slump-rich zones ascribed to previously unknown earthquakes ranging in age from 2420 to 14,560 years before the present. Modeling indicated that the slump associated with one of these events was capable of producing a tsunami higher than 3 m, which suggests that earthquake-associated tsunamis can pose a risk in lakes as well as oceans. — SW

Geology30, 1131 (2002).

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