Abstract

Five strong paleoseismic events were recorded in the past 15 k.y. in a series of slump deposits in the subsurface of Lake Lucerne, central Switzerland, revealing for the first time the paleoseismic history of one of the most seismically active areas in central Europe. Although many slump deposits in marine and lacustrine environments were previously attributed to historic earthquakes, the lack of detailed three-dimensional stratigraphic correlation in combination with accurate dating hampered the use of multiple slump deposits as paleoseismic indicators. This study investigated the fingerprint of the well-described A.D. 1601 earthquake (I = VII–VIII, Mw ∼ 6.2) in the sediments of Lake Lucerne. The earthquake triggered numerous synchronous slumps and megaturbidites within different subbasins of the lake, producing a characteristic pattern that can be used to assign a seismic triggering mechanism to prehistoric slump events. For each seismic event horizon, the slump synchronicity was established by seismic-stratigraphic correlation between individual slump deposits through a quasi-three-dimensional high-resolution seismic survey grid. Four prehistoric events, dated by accelerator mass spectrometry, 14C measurements, and tephrochronology on a series of long gravity cores, occurred at 2420, 9770, 13,910, and 14,560 calendar yr ago. These recurrence times are essential factors for assessing seismic hazard in the area. The seismic hazard for lakeshore communities is additionally amplified by slump-induced tsunami and seiche waves. Numerical modeling of such tsunami waves revealed wave heights to 3 m, indicating tsunami risk in lacustrine environments.

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