Journal of Seismology

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 329–359 | Cite as

Surface-rupturing history of the Bree fault scarp, Roer Valley graben: Evidence for six events since the late Pleistocene

  • Kris Vanneste
  • Koen Verbeeck
  • Thierry Camelbeeck
  • Etienne Paulissen
  • Mustapha Meghraoui
  • François Renardy
  • Denis Jongmans
  • Manfred Frechen


Since 1996 paleoseismological investigations have been used to develop the surface- rupturing history of the Bree fault scarp, the morphologically best-defined segment of the southwestern border fault of the Roer Valley graben in northeastern Belgium. The first studies determined that the escarpment is associated with a surface fault, and they exposed evidence for three surface displacements since about 40 ka BP. The most recent eventprobably occurred between 1000 and 1350 yr cal BP. Geophysical and trenching studies at a new site near the southeastern end of the fault scarp reconfirmed the coincidence of the frontal escarpment with a shallow normal fault, which displaces the Middle Pleistocene `Main Terrace' of the Maas River, as well as overlying coversands of Saalian to late Weichselian age. Different amounts of displacement shown by the two youngest coversand units indicate two discrete faulting events, but primary evidence for the coseismic nature of these events is sparse. Radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dating constrainthe age of these events to the Holocene and between 14.0 ± 2.3 ka BP and 15.8 ± 2.9 ka BP, respectively. In addition, four older surface-rupturing events are inferred from the presence of four wedge-shaped units of reworked Main Terrace deposits that are interbedded with coversand units in the hanging wall of the trench and in shallow boreholes. These wedges are interpreted as colluvial wedges, produced by accelerated slope processes in response torejuvenation of the fault scarp, most probably in a periglacial environment. Luminescence dating indicates that five out of a total of six identified faulting events are younger than 136.6 ± 17.6 ka. The antepenultimate event was the largest faulting event, associated with a total fault displacement in excess of 1 m. Thus, the newly investigated trench site represents the longest and most complete record of surface rupturing recovered so far along the Bree fault scarp. This study also demonstrates the viability of the paleoseismological approach to identify past large earthquakes in areas of present-day moderate to low seismic activity.

colluvial wedge coversand Feldbiss fault zone low strain rate paleoearthquake periglacial trenching 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kris Vanneste
    • 1
  • Koen Verbeeck
    • 1
  • Thierry Camelbeeck
    • 1
  • Etienne Paulissen
    • 2
  • Mustapha Meghraoui
    • 3
  • François Renardy
    • 4
  • Denis Jongmans
    • 4
  • Manfred Frechen
    • 5
  1. 1.Royal Observatory of BelgiumBrusselBelgium
  2. 2.Lab voor Geomorfologie en Regionale GeografieKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.EOST – Institut de Physique du GlobeStrasbourg cedexFrance
  4. 4.LGIH, University of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  5. 5.Centre for Environmental Change & Quaternary ResearchGEMRUCheltenhamU.K.

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