Swiss Tsunami

Steve's picture


 What do you think of when you hear, Switzerland? 

 Swiss Chocolate?  Swiss Cheese? Swiss Steak? Swiss Army Knives?

 How about Swiss Earthquakes?  or Swiss Tsunami? 

The Swiss pride themselves on neutrality, but natural hazards heed no border. Way back in the year 1601, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck near Basel. As you might expect, there was considerable damage from the shaking, but something extraordinary took place -- a Swiss Tsunami. Fifty miles away, the quake triggered the fall of several large landslides into Lake Lucerne. Landslide-generated tsunami, at least five meters high, then when out to destroy homes and cause several deaths.



All this played out over four centuries ago, how do we know about it?  Renward Cysat, the registrar of Lucerne Town, had the foresight to report it in his chronicle...

“Several towers in Lucerne were destroyed but what scared people most was that the out flowing river Reuss flowed back into Lake Lucerne so that the riverbed between the two parts of the city almost became dry and several people could cross it by foot, before the water again vehemently advanced towards the city.” As Cysat traveled along the lake’s shore, he recorded observations such as: “Ships had been thrown onshore … up to two halberds [~4 m] above the lake level. … Small islands and shoals had disappeared,” so did “entire houses with sleeping people”. In Lucerne itself, the cyclic oscillation of lake level (seiche) had a period of 10 minutes and an estimated amplitude of 1–2 m.

 I made these simulations of the 1601 Lake Lucerne landslide and tsunami to give you a vision of what happened. Not just ancient history, landslide-induced waves in lakes and reservoirs are still a huge concern for geologists and engineers. Today, the Chinese are finishing one of the biggest water impoundment projects in the world – the Three Gorges Dam. Dozens of scientists are using computer simulations like these to estimate wave hazard from landslips into the new lake.

Certainly earthquakes and tsunami are low-level hazards in Switzerland. Rockfalls, mudslides, and snow avalanches rank much higher. I’m told that, by law, every household in Switzerland must have at hand a survival kit for these and other potential threats. Naturally, the kit should contain Swiss Chocolate, Swiss Cheese, Swiss Steak, Swiss Army Knives, .....


Steven N. Ward  Santa Cruz


HarryWilliams's picture

I have come across about this swiss tsunami earth quake through essay writers online  news articles and really felt sad about this disaster. It has taken the place into something bad way. I hope they get recover from this disaster as well.

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