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FEATURE ARTICLE

Ancient Earthquakes at Lake Lucerne

A recent survey of the sediments beneath a Swiss lake reveals a series of prehistoric temblors

Michael Schnellmann, Flavio Anselmetti, Domenico Giardini, Judith McKenzie, Steven Ward

Figure 3. Structural details in the sediments of Lake Lucerne . . .Click to Enlarge Image

The authors describe their efforts to determine the seismic history of Lucerne, Switzerland, which was badly shaken up in a 1601 earthquake—one that would have registered above 6 on the modern Richter scale. Through the study of the sediments in nearby Lake Lucerne, this team of geologists concludes that at least four other earthquakes also rocked this usually tranquil locale since the end of the Ice Age. Such "intra-plate earthquakes" do not take place often, but they can be quite destructive. So it is important to know how frequently they recur. Studying the natural archive found in lake sediments is thus provides an important supplement to historical records of seismic activity in Switzerland.


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