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Studies on 'precarious rocks' in the epicentral area of the AD 1356 Basle earthquake, Switzerland.

Schürch, P. and Becker, A. (2005) 'Studies on 'precarious rocks' in the epicentral area of the AD 1356 Basle earthquake, Switzerland.', Geophysical journal international., 163 (2). pp. 689-697.


For the first time precarious rocks have been analysed in the epicentral area of the AD 1356 Basle earthquake in northern Switzerland. Several cliff sites in flat-lying, thickly bedded Upper Jurassic coral limestones in the Jura Mountains were investigated. Seven blocks are regarded as precarious with respect to earthquake strong ground motions. The age of these precarious rocks could not be determined directly as for instance by radiometric dating methods; however, based on slope degradation processes it can be concluded that the formation of these blocks predates the AD 1356 Basle earthquake. The acceleration required to topple a precarious rock from its pedestal is estimated using geometrical data for individual block sections and earthquake strong-motion records from stations on rock sites in the European Strong-Motion Database as input data for the computer program ROCKING V1.0 from the Seismological Laboratory, University of Nevada, Reno. The calculations indicate that toppling of a precarious rock largely depends on earthquake strength but also on the frequency spectrum of the signal. Although most investigated precarious rocks are surprisingly stable for ground motions similar to those expected to have occurred during the AD 1356 Basle earthquake, at least two blocks are clearly precariously balanced, with peak toppling accelerations lower than 0.3 g. Possible reasons why these blocks did not topple during the AD 1356 Basle earthquake include incomplete separation from their base, sliding of precarious rocks, their size, lower than assumed ground accelerations and/or duration of shaking.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:AD 1356 Basle earthquake, Peak ground acceleration, Precarious rocks, Seismic hazard assessment.
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Record Created:16 Nov 2010 16:20
Last Modified:17 Nov 2010 15:42

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