Reconstructing 4000 years of mass movement and tsunami history in a deep peri-Alpine lake (Lake Geneva, France-Switzerland)

Kremer, Katrina; Hilbe, Michael; Simpson, Guy; Decrouy, Laurent; Wildi, Walter; Girardclos, Stephanie (2015). Reconstructing 4000 years of mass movement and tsunami history in a deep peri-Alpine lake (Lake Geneva, France-Switzerland). Sedimentology, 62(5), pp. 1305-1327. Blackwell Science 10.1111/sed.12190

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The study of mass movements in lake sediments provides insights into past natural hazards at historic and prehistoric timescales. Sediments from the deep basin of Lake Geneva reveal a succession of six large-scale (volumes of 22 × 106 to 250 × 106 m3) mass-transport deposits, associated with five mass-movement events within 2600 years (4000 cal bp to 563 ad). The mass-transport deposits result from: (i) lateral slope failures (mass-transport deposit B at 3895 ± 225 cal bp and mass-transport deposits A and C at 3683 ± 128 cal bp); and (ii) Rhône delta collapses (mass-transport deposits D to G dated at 2650 ± 150 cal bp, 2185 ± 85 cal bp, 1920 ± 120 cal bp and 563 ad, respectively). Mass-transport deposits A and C were most probably triggered by an earthquake, whereas the Rhône delta collapses were likely to be due to sediment overload with a rockfall as the external trigger (mass-transport deposit G, the Tauredunum event in 563 ad known from historical records), an earthquake (mass-transport deposit E) or unknown external triggers (mass-transport deposits D and F). Independent of their origin and trigger mechanisms, numerical simulations show that all of these recorded mass-transport deposits are large enough to have generated at least metre-scale tsunamis during mass movement initiation. Since the Tauredunum event in 563 ad, two small-scale (volumes of 1 to 2 × 106 m3) mass-transport deposits (H and I) are present in the seismic record, both of which are associated with small lateral slope failures. Mass-transport deposits H and I might be related to earthquakes in Lausanne/Geneva (possibly) 1322 ad and Aigle 1584 ad, respectively. The sedimentary record of the deep basin of Lake Geneva, in combination with the historical record, show that during the past 3695 years, at least six tsunamis were generated by mass movements, indicating that the tsunami hazard in the Lake Geneva region should not be neglected, although such events are not frequent with a recurrence time of 0·0016 yr−1.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Kremer, Katrina and Hilbe, Michael


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Blackwell Science




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

20 Aug 2015 11:47

Last Modified:

17 Jun 2022 15:18

Publisher DOI:





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