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Determination of displacements in the upper Rhine graben Area from GPS and leveling data


The Upper Rhine graben is a north–northeast trending rift system, which belongs to the European Cenozoic rift system. Today, the southern part of the graben is seismically still active. Earthquakes of magnitude 5 have a recurrence time of approximately 30 years. In order to monitor and to determine the displacements in the study area, GPS measurements have been carried out in two campaigns (1999 and 2000), and observations of the available permanent stations have been processed in 2002. Owing to the small size of deformations expected, high accuracy requirements must be met by the GPS processing. In order to achieve these requirements, precise antenna modeling has been introduced into the processing. As expected the short time span has not enabled to detect significant displacements from the GPS measurements. The deformation analysis shows that the horizontal displacement rates do not exceed 1 mm/year, which is compatible with the geological information. Owing to the fact that the accuracy of positioning with GPS for the vertical coordinates is lower than for the horizontal coordinates, the determination of vertical displacements has been carried out using the leveling technique. In the area of Freiburg, first-order and second-order leveling lines have been chosen for the detection of local displacements on the Weinstetten, on the Lehen-Schönberg and on the Main Border Fault (MBF). Some sections of these faults are still active today. Significant vertical displacements have been observed at the Weinstetten fault in the area of Bad Krozingen and on the MBF in Freiburg. The displacement rates (1925–1984) are 0.17±0.01 mm/year and 0.25±0.02 mm/year respectively. The results agree very well with the results of seismotectonic investigations, and show that ongoing displacements can be found on the northern part of the Lehen-Schönberg fault in the vicinity of Eichstetten, and on the MBF in the vicinity of Freiburg.

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Funding by the European Commission Program for Improving Human Potential through contract HPRN CT2000 00053 to the Geosciences Training and Research Network is gratefully acknowledged. ENTEC was developed in the context of the EUCOR-URGENT network ( Furthermore the authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. These helped a lot to improve the quality of the paper.

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Rózsa, S., Heck, B., Mayer, M. et al. Determination of displacements in the upper Rhine graben Area from GPS and leveling data. Int J Earth Sci (Geol Rundsch) 94, 538–549 (2005).

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  • GPS
  • Geodesy
  • Leveling
  • Intraplate deformations