Seismicity and dynamics of the Upper Rhinegraben

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K.-P. Bonjer
C. Gelbke
B. Gilg
D. Rouland
D. Mayer-Rosa
B. Massinon


In this paper we present the results of a 10-year period (1971-1980) of research on the seismicity of the Upper Rhinegraben. Our investigations are exclusively based on instrumentally recorded earthquakes with local magnitudes between 0.5 < ML < 5. The increase in the number of high-gain seismic stations during the past 2 decades improved the quality of the observations considerably, thus allowing detailed recognition of the spatial distribution of the earthquake loci in focal areas deduced from the analysis of historical events. No region, regarded up to now as aseismic, revealed itself as seismic, not even at the level of microearthquakes. Excluding the focal area of the Swabian Jura, the northernmost and southernmost parts of the Upper Rhinegraben show the highest degree of seismic activity. The middle part of the Rhinegraben, between Strasbourg and Karlsruhe, reveals only modest activity, somewhat in contrast to the historical record. The number of earthquakes increases towards the east of the river Rhine relative to the west. An even more pronounced asymmetry is shown in the southern graben by different maximum focal depths perpendicular to the strike of the Rhinegraben. In the Vosges mountains and in the graben proper, depths of 13 and 16 km, respectively, are not exceeded. Maximum depths down to about 20 km are found in the Black Forest. No earthquake was detected in the lower gabbroic crust or in the mantle. The maximum focal depth seems to be governed by variations in the temperature-depth distribution. Fault plane solutions of more than 30 earthquakes demonstrate that the seismic dislocations take place predominantly as strike slip mechanisms in the southern graben area whereas normal faulting prevails in the north. In the northern graben, most of the seismic dislocations occur on fault segments striking N30°W whereas in the south a strike ofN20°E or N60°W (the conjugate direction) is dominant. Furthermore, the fault plane solutions indicate a clockwise rotation of the principle stress directions from north to south by about 40°.

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Bonjer, K.-P., Gelbke, C., Gilg, B., Rouland, D., Mayer-Rosa, D., & Massinon, B. (1984). Seismicity and dynamics of the Upper Rhinegraben. Journal of Geophysics, 55(1), 1-12. Retrieved from


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