Skip to Main Content

Apparent late Quaternary fault-slip rate increase in the southern Lower Rhine Graben, Central Europe

Ryan D. Gold, Anke Friedrich, Simon Kuebler and Martin Salamon
Apparent late Quaternary fault-slip rate increase in the southern Lower Rhine Graben, Central Europe
Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (January 2017) 107 (2): 563-580


In regions of low strain, long earthquake recurrence intervals (10 (super 4) -10 (super 6) yrs) and erosive processes limit preservation of Quaternary markers suitable for distinguishing whether faults slip at uniform or secularly varying rates. The Lower Rhine graben in the border region of Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium provides a unique opportunity to explore Quaternary slip-rate variations in a region of low strain using the basal (2.29+ or -0.29 Ma) and surface (700+ or -80 ka) contacts of the regionally extensive main terrace ("Hauptterrasse"), deposited by the Rhine and Maas Rivers. These surfaces are vertically offset 3-140 m and 0-68 m, respectively, across individual fault strands within a distributed network of northwest-trending, slow-slipping (<0.1 mm/yr) normal faults. In this investigation, we construct Quaternary slip histories for the southern Lower Rhine graben faults using new main terrace surface vertical offset measurements made from light detection and ranging (lidar)-derived bare-earth digital terrain models, which we synthesize with existing constraints on the offset basal contact of this fluvial deposit (n=91 collocated sites with displacement constraints). We find that >80% of the sites record an apparent increase in slip rate for the more recent interval from 700 ka to present, which corresponds to a period of increased uplift of the nearby Rhenish Massif and regional volcanism. However, the apparent increase in slip rate could result, in part, from erosion of the footwall surface below the main terrace, leading to an apparent displacement that is smaller than the total vertical offset since the start of the Quaternary. Prior work focused on characterization of these faults as seismic sources in the Lower Rhine graben has preferentially relied on the average fault-slip rate constrained using the base of the main terrace. We suggest that average fault-slip rates calculated using the approximately 700 ka main terrace surface are subjected to fewer uncertainties and sample a time interval that is more relevant for seismic-hazard analysis. Electronic Supplement: Table of main terrace surface and basal contact offset measurements, figure describing an unrealistic faulting scenario, and a KML file with the fault-trace mapping spanning the Lower Rhine graben.

ISSN: 0037-1106
EISSN: 1943-3573
Serial Title: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
Serial Volume: 107
Serial Issue: 2
Title: Apparent late Quaternary fault-slip rate increase in the southern Lower Rhine Graben, Central Europe
Affiliation: U. S. Geological Survey, Geologic Hazards Science Center, Golden, CO, United States
Pages: 563-580
Published: 20170124
Text Language: English
Publisher: Seismological Society of America, Berkeley, CA, United States
References: 78
Accession Number: 2017-015822
Categories: Structural geologySeismology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. sect., 1 table, geol. sketch maps
N51°00'00" - N52°00'00", E05°00'00" - E08°00'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, DEU, GermanyGeological Survey of Nordrhein-Westfalen, DEU, Germany
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Seismological Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 201711
Program Name: USGSOPNon-USGS publications with USGS authors
Close Modal
This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal