Subaqueous landslide-triggered tsunami hazard for Lake Zurich, Switzerland

  • Michael Strupler
  • Michael Hilbe
  • Katrina Kremer
  • Laurentiu Danciu
  • Flavio S. Anselmetti
  • Michael Strasser
  • Stefan Wiemer


Subaqueous landslides can induce potentially damaging tsunamis. Tsunamis are not restricted to the marine environment, but have also been documented on lakes in Switzerland and worldwide. For Lake Zurich (central Switzerland), previous work documented multiple, assumedly earthquake-triggered landslides. However, no information about past tsunamis is available for Lake Zurich. In a back-analysis, we model tsunami scenarios as a consequence of the earthquake-triggered landslides in the past. Furthermore, on the basis of a recent map of the earthquake-triggered subaqueous landslide hazard, we present results of a tsunami hazard assessment. The subaqueous landslide progression, wave propagation and inundation are calculated with a combination of open source codes. Although no historic evidence of past tsunamis has been documented for Lake Zurich, a tsunami hazard exists. However, only earthquakes with long return periods are assumed to cause considerable tsunamis. An earthquake with an exceedance probability of 0.5% in 50 years (corresponding to an earthquake with a return period of 9975 years) is assumed to cause tsunamigenic landslides on most lateral slopes of Lake Zurich. A hypothetical tsunami for such an event would create damage especially along the shores of the central basin of Lake Zurich with estimated peak flow depths of up to ~ 4.6 m. Our results suggest that for an earthquake with an exceedance probability of 10% in 50 years (i.e., mean return period of 475 years), no considerable tsunami hazard is estimated. Even for a worst-case scenario, the cities of Zurich and Rapperswil, located at the northern and southern ends of the lake, respectively, are assumed to experience very little damage. The presented first-order results of estimated wave heights and inundated zones provide valuable information on tsunami-prone areas that can be used for further investigations and mitigation measures.


Subaqueous mass movements Tsunami hazard assessment Tsunami modelling Lake Zurich 



This work was supported by the Swiss National Foundation Grant no. 133481. K. K. is currently funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Project number PMPDP2_171318). Swisstopo geodata was reproduced with the authorisation (JA100120). We would like to thank the developers of MassMov2D and GeoClaw for providing the open-source codes.

Supplementary material

15_2018_308_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1576 kb)


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Copyright information

© Swiss Geological Society 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological Institute, ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Geological Sciences and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Swiss Seismological ServiceETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  4. 4.Institute of GeologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

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