The present publication focuses on the study of caves in northern and central Switzerland in order to detect and date historical earthquakes and active tectonic displacements by investigations of broken and resealed or displaced speleothems datable by U/Th and 14C. While it can be shown that these methods are potentially suitable, the ages obtained are often beyond the range of historically recorded earthquakes, and it cannot be proved that the observed and dated events are related to a seismic event. Particularly this is true for the caves in central Switzerland, where most ages in the Melchsee-Frutt region were beyond the limits of the U/Th method, or of late Pleistocene age in the Siebenhengste-Hohgant region. A direct comparison with known historical (or prehistoric) earthquakes was not possible. In contrast to central Switzerland, the results in the Basle region of northern Switzerland indicates cave and speleothem damages in one cave within the epicentral area of the 1356 Basle earthquake. 14C datings allowed to directly relate the speleothem damages to this M 6.5 earthquake. Further dating results from caves in northern Switzerland on speleothems and organic material in cave deposits supplied ages which indicate older events not related to the historical Basle earthquake. The detection of active fault displacements and prehistoric strong earthquakes can only be achieved by a very careful deciphering of the palaeo-environmental records and many more age determinations which allow to separate active tectonic displacements and seismic events from other events not related to tectonics, i.e. glaciations, creep of sediments, catastrophic floods etc.
Becker, Arnfried; Philipp Häuselmann; Jost Eikenberg; and Eric Gilli.
Active tectonics and earthquake destructions in caves of northern and central Switzerland.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol41/iss1/5