The case for large (M >7) earthquakes felt in the UK in historical times

Musson, Roger. 2008 The case for large (M >7) earthquakes felt in the UK in historical times. In: Frechet, J.; Meghraoui, M.; Stucchi, M., (eds.) Historical seismology : interdisciplinary studies of past and recent earthquakes. Springer, 187-207. (Modern approaches in solid earth sciences).

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Evidence from seismic and bathymetric surveys along the passive margin of NW Europe indicates that there are a number of features suggestive of large earthquakes having occurred in geologically recent times, although the exact timing of these events is difficult to establish. It might be thought that, although such large earthquakes may have occurred, for example, in immediate post-glacial times in response to rapid isostatic readjustment, no earthquake in the UK area in historical times has exceeded a value of around 5.7 Mw. However, in past interpretations of regional seismicity, the possibility that some known historical earthquakes were in fact passive margin events has not really been canvassed. A large, distant, offshore earthquake is likely to be felt only at moderate strength over well-populated areas without any observable damage concentration. In a period when documentation of earthquakes is always sparse, such an occurrence is likely to lead to vague reporting that will not be easily interpretable. Looking at the historical record with this in mind, it is possible to identify some earthquakes that are at least compatible with an offshore interpretation, as shown in a series of case studies. However, in no case is such an interpretation the only one viable. Also, some cases that initially appear to be potentially passive margin events can in fact be discounted. While there is no unequivocal evidence for large earthquakes having occurred on the NW European passive margin in historical times, neither can the possibility be rejected, and examination of the record shows one event in particular (in 1508) which may be a large passive margin event. Thus the regional maximum magnitude could possibly be larger than has hitherto been assumed.

Item Type: Publication - Book Section
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2008 > Earth hazards and systems
ISBN: 9781402082214
Additional Keywords: UK, Earthquakes, Seismology
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 06 Jan 2009 13:48 +0 (UTC)

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