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The 1905 Chamonix earthquakes: active tectonics in the Mont Blanc and Aiguilles Rouges massifs

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Anne-Sophie Meriaux



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Linking earthquakes of moderate size to known tectonic sources is a challenge for seismic hazard studies in northwestern Europe because of overall low strain rates. Here we present a combined study of macroseismic information, tectonic observations, and seismic waveform modelling to document the largest instrumentally known event in the French northern Alps, the April 29, 1905, Chamonix earthquake. The moment magnitude of this event is estimated at Mw 5.3 ± 0.3 from records in Göttingen (Germany) and Uppsala (Sweden). The event of April 29 was followed by several afterschocks and in particular a second broadly felt earthquake on August 13, 1905. Macroseismic investigations allow us to favour a location of the epicentres 5–10 km N–NE of Chamonix. Tectonic analysis shows that potentially one amongst several faults might have been activated in 1905. Among them the right lateral strike-slip fault responsible for the recent 2005 Mw = 4.4 Vallorcine earthquake and a quasi-normal fault northeast of the Aiguilles Rouges massif are the most likely candidates. Discussion of tectonic, macroseismic, and instrumental data favour the normal fault hypothesis for the 1905 Chamonix earthquake sequence.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cara M, Van der Woerd J, Alasset PJ, Benjumea J, Mériaux AS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Swiss Journal of Geosciences

Year: 2017

Volume: 110

Issue: 2

Pages: 631-651

Print publication date: 01/06/2017

Online publication date: 02/02/2017

Acceptance date: 17/01/2017

Date deposited: 17/02/2017

ISSN (print): 1661-8726

ISSN (electronic): 1661-8734

Publisher: Springer Basel AG


DOI: 10.1007/s00015-017-0262-7


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