Seismicity of the Algerian Tell Atlas and the Impacts of Major Earthquakes

  • Farida Ousadou
  • Mourad BezzeghoudEmail author
Part of the Springer Geology book series (SPRINGERGEOL)


The seismicity of the Tell Atlas, which extends from the Algerian margin to the South Atlasic fault system, is related to the dynamics of Quaternary basins under an oblique NW–SE convergent stress regime, including the basins of Mleta and L’Habra in the west, Cheliff and Mitidja in the centre, and Soummam, Hodna and Guelma in the east. This seismicity is characterized by moderate to low magnitudes with strong events occurring generally once a decade. Over the last six decades, several moderate, strong and major events occurred that were associated with extensive and severe damage, such as those of El Asnam (1954, Ms 6.7; 1980, Ms 7.3), Constantine (1985, Ms 6.0), Tipasa–Chenoua (1989, Ms 6.0), Mascara (1994, Ms 6.0), Ain Temouchent (1999, Ms 5.8), Beni Ouartilane (2001, Ms 5.6), Zemmouri—Boumerdes (2003, Mw 6.8) and Laalam (2005, Ms 5.8), in addition to numerous large historical seismic events, including those that occurred in Algiers (1365 and 1716, Io = X), Oran (1790, Io = X), Mascara (1819, Io = X), Djidjelli (1856, Io = VIII) and M’sila (1885, Io = IX). This chapter presents a review of the seismicity of North Algeria and a detailed analysis of the main earthquakes that have occurred in the Tell Atlas since 1980. Finally, the impacts of several significant earthquakes that occurred during the period between 1364 and 2015 are presented and discussed in terms of seismic energy.


Seismicity Focal mechanisms Seismic energy Impact of earthquakes North Algeria 



This study was conducted within the scope of the MEDYNA FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IRSES project, WP-1: Present-day Kinematics and seismic hazards, funded by the Seventh Framework European Programme. The authors acknowledge the support provided by the Instituto de Ciências da Terra da Universidade de Évora (Portugal) and the Centre de Recherche en Astronomie, Astrophysique et Géophysique (Algiers, Algeria), under contract with the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT, Portugal), PEst-OE/CTE/UI0078/2011. We would like to thank the Editors, Prof. Abderrahmane Bendaoud and Prof. Mohamed Hamoudi (Algiers University, USTHB), for their help.


  1. Abbes K, Dorbath L, Dorbath C, Djeddi M, Ousadou F, Maouche S, Benkaci N, Slimani A, Larbes L, Bouziane D (2016) The Beni Haoua, Algeria, Mw 4.9 earthquake: source parameters, engineering, and seismotectonic implications. J Seismolog 20(2):655–667. Scholar
  2. Ayadi A, Bezzeghoud M (2015) Seismicity of Algeria from 1365 to 2013: maximum observed intensity map (MOI2014). Seismol Res Lett 86(1).
  3. Ayadi A, Ousadou-Ayadi F, Bourouis S, Benhallou H (2002) Seismotectonic and seismic quietness of the Oranie region (western Algeria); the Mascara earthquake of August 18th 1994, Mw = 5.7, Ms = 6.0. J Seismolog 6(1):13–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ayadi A, Maouche S, Harbi A, Meghraoui M, Beldjoudi H, Oussadou F, Mahsas A, Benouar D, Heddar A, Rouchiche Y, Kherroubi A, Frogneux M, Lammali K, BEnhamouda F, Sebai A, Bourouis S, Alasset PJ, Aoudia A, Cakir Z, Merahi M, Nouar O, Yelles A, Bellik A, Briole P, Charade O, Thouvenot F, Semane F, Ferkoul A, Deramchi A, Haned SA (2003) Strong Algerian earthquake strikes near capital city. Eos Trans Am Geophys Union 84:561–568Google Scholar
  5. Ayadi A, Dorbath C, Ousadou F, Maouche S, Chikh M, Bounif MA, Meghraoui M (2008) Zemmouri earthquake rupture zone (Mw 6.8, Algeria): aftershocks sequence relocation and 3D velocity model. J Geophys Res Solid Earth 113(B9):B09301. Scholar
  6. Bahrouni, Soumaya, Ben Ayed N, Bouaziz S, Attafik K, Rebai (2013) Investigation of historical seismicity in Tunisia from the records of building damage. In: The large Mediterranean earthquakes from past to present-international symposium, Algiers, 21–23 May 2013, Abstracts volGoogle Scholar
  7. Bahrouni N, Bouaziz S, Soumaya A, Ben Ayed N, Attafi K, El Ghali A, Rebai N (2014) Neotectonic and seismotectonics investigation of seismically active regions in Tunisia: a multidisciplinary approach. J Seismolog 18:235–256. Scholar
  8. Ben Ayed N, Zargouni F (1990) Carte sismotectonique de la Tunisie à l’échelle 1/1000 000. Fondation Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, TunisiaGoogle Scholar
  9. Benhallou (1985) Les catastrophes séismiques de la région d’Echllef dans le contexte de la séismicité Historique de l’Algérie. Thèse de Doctorat Es-Sciences, IST-USTHB, Alger, AlgérieGoogle Scholar
  10. Benouar D (1994) Materials for investigation of the seismicity of Algeria and adjacent regions during the twentieth century. Ann Geophys 37(4)Google Scholar
  11. Benfedda A, Abbes K, Bouziane D, Bouhadad Y, Slimani A, Larbes S, Haddouche D, Bezzeghoud M (2017) The August 1st, 2014 (Mw 5.3) Moderate earthquake: evidence for an active thrust fault in the bay of Algiers (Algeria), Pure Appl Geophys 174(3):1503–1511.
  12. Bezzeghoud M, Buforn E (1999) Source parameters of the 1992 Melilla (Spain, Mw = 4.8), 1994 Al Hoceima (Morocco, Mw = 5.8) and Mascara (Algeria, Mw = 5.7) earthquakes and seismotectonic implications. Bull Seismol Soc Am 89(2):359–372Google Scholar
  13. Bezzeghoud M, Dimitrov D, Ruegg JC, Lammali K (1995) Faulting mechanism of the El Asnam (Algeria) 1954 and 1980 earthquake from modeling of vertical movements. Tectonophysics 249:249–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bezzeghoud M, Ayadi A, Sébaï A, Aït Messaoud M, Mokrane A, Benhallou H (1996) Seismicity of Algeria between 1365 and 1989: map of maximum observed intensities (MOI). Av Geofís Geod 1:107–114Google Scholar
  15. Bezzeghoud M, Borges JF, Caldeira B, Buforn E, Udias A (2008) Seismic activity in the Azores region in the context of the western part of the Eurasia–Nubia plate boundary. In: International seminar on seismic risk and rehabilitation on the 10th anniversary of the July 9 1998 Azores earthquake, Horta-Azores, 9–13 July, pp 27–31Google Scholar
  16. Bezzeghoud M, Borges JF, Caldeira B (2012) Fontes sísmicas ao longo da fronteira de placas tectónicas entre os Açores e a Argélia: um modelo sismotectónico. In: Dias R, Araújo A, Terrinha P, Kullberg JC (eds) Geologia de Portugal, vol 2. Escolar Editora, pp 747–790. ISBN: 978-972-592-364-1Google Scholar
  17. Bezzeghoud M, Adam C, Buforn E, Borges JF, Caldeira B (2014) Seismicity along the Azores-Gibraltar region and global plate kinematics. J Seismolog 18:205–220. Scholar
  18. Borges JF, Fitas AJS, Bezzeghoud M, Teves-Costa P (2001) Seismotectonics of Portugal and its adjacent Atlantic area. Tectonophysics 337:373–387Google Scholar
  19. Borges JF, Bezzeghoud M, Buforn E, Pro C, Fitas AJS (2007) The 1980, 1997 and 1998 Azores earthquakes and its seismotectonic implications. Tectonophysics 435:37–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Borges JF, Caldeira B, Bezzeghoud M, Buforn E (2008) Seismicity and seismotectonics of Azores: geodynamic implications. In: Oliveira CS, Costa A, Nunes JC (eds) A book on the 1998 Azores earthquake—10 years after its occurrence, pp 99–110. ISBN 978.989-20-1223-0, 741 pGoogle Scholar
  21. Bouaziz S, Barrier E, Soussi M, Turki MM, Zouari H (2002) Tectonic evolution of the northern African margin in Tunisia from paleostress data and sedimentary record. Tectonophysics 357:227–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Bouhadad Y, Nour A, Laouami N, Behai D (2003) The Tachaouaft-Beni-ourtilane fault and seismotectonic aspects of the Babors region (eastern Algeria). J Seismolog 7:79–88. Scholar
  23. Bouhadad Y, Benhamouche A, Bourenane H, Ait ouali A, Chikh M, Guessoum N (2010) The Laalam (Algeria) damaging landslide triggered by a moderate earthquake (Mw = 5.2). J Nat Hazards 54:261–272Google Scholar
  24. Bounif MA, Dorbath C (1998) Three-dimensional velocity structure and relocated aftershocks for the 1985 Constantine, Algeria (Ms = 5.9) earthquake. Ann Geophys 41(1):93–104Google Scholar
  25. Bounif MA, Haessler H, Meghraoui M (1987) The Constantine (Northeast Algeria) earthquake of October 27, 1985; surface ruptures and aftershock study. Earth Planet Sci Lett 85(4):451–460. Scholar
  26. Bounif A, Bezzeghoud M, Dorbath L, Legrand D, Deschamps A, Rivera L, Benhallou H (2003) Seismic source study of the 1989, October 29, Chenoua (Algeria) earthquake from aftershocks, broad-band and strong motion records. Ann Geophys 46(4):625–646Google Scholar
  27. Bounif A, Dorbath C, Ayadi A, Meghraoui M, Beldjoudi H, Laouami N, Frogneux M, Slimani A, Alasset PJ, Kharroubi A, Ousadou F, Chikh M, Harbi A, Larbes S, Maouche S (2004) The 21 May Zemmouri (Algeria) earthquake Mw 6.8: relocation and aftershock sequence analysis. Geophys Res Lett 31:L19606.
  28. Braunmiller J, Bernardi F (2005) The 2003 Boumerdes, Algeria earthquake: regional moment tensor analysis. Geophys Res Lett 32(6):L06305. Scholar
  29. Buforn E (2008) Seismotectonics of Azores-Tunisia. In: Mendes-Victor L, Sousa Oliveira C, Azevedo J, Ribeiro A (eds) The 1755 Lisbon earthquake revisited, pp 397–410Google Scholar
  30. Buforn E, Udías A, Madariaga R (1991) Intermediate and deep earthquakes in Spain. Pure Appl Geophys 136:375–393Google Scholar
  31. Buforn E, Bezzeghoud M, Udias A, Pro C (2004) Seismic sources on the Iberia-African plate boundary and their tectonic implications. Pure Appl Geophys 161(3):623–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Buforn E, Udías A, Pro C (2015) Large earthquakes at the Ibero-Maghrebian region. Basis for an EEWS. Pure Appl Geophys 172(2015):2387–2396. Scholar
  33. Buforn E, Pro C, de Galdeano CS, Cantavella JV, Cesca S, Caldeira B, Udías A, Mattesini M (2017) The 2016 south Alboran earthquake (Mw = 6.4): a reactivation of the Ibero-Maghrebian region? Tectonophysics 712:704–715.
  34. De Vicente G, Cloetingh S, Munoz-Martin A, Olaiz A, Stich D, Vegas R, Galindo-Zaldivar J, Fernandez-Lozano J (2008) Inversion of moment tensor focal mechanisms for active stresses around the micro-continent Iberia: tectonic implications. Tectonics 27:TC1009.
  35. Delouis B, Vallée M, Meghraoui M, Calais E, Maouche S, Lammali K, Mahsas A, Briole P, Benhamouda F, Yelles K (2004) Slip distribution of the 2003 Boumerdes-Zemmouri earthquake, Algeria, from teleseismic, GPS, and coastal uplift data. Geophys Res Lett 31Google Scholar
  36. Deschamps A, Gaudemer Y, Cisternas A (1982) The El Asnam, Algeria, earthquake of October 1980: multiple-source mechanism determined from long-period records. Bull Seismol Soc Am 72(4):1111–1128Google Scholar
  37. Deschamps A, Bezzeghoud M, Bounif A (1991) Seismological study of the Constantine (Algeria) earthquake (27 October 1985). In: Mezcua J, Udias A (eds) Seismicity, seismotectonics and seismic risk of the Ibero-Maghrebian region, vol 8. Publ. IGN. Madrid, pp 163–173Google Scholar
  38. Dewey (1990) The 1954 and 1980 Algerian earthquakes: implications for the characteristic-displacement model of fault behavior. Bull Seismol Soc Am 81(2):446–467Google Scholar
  39. El Mrabet T (2005) The great earthquakes in the Maghreb region and their consequences on man and environment, (in Arabic with abstract in English). Edit Centre National de Recherche Scientifique et Technique, Rabat, MoroccoGoogle Scholar
  40. Espinoza AF, Lopez-Arroyo A (1984) Inconsistencies in the modified Mercalli intensities scales, El Asnam, Algeria, earthquake. In: Proc Conf Int Sur la microzonation sismique, Ech Cheliff, Algeria, 10–12 Oct 1984, pp 51–65Google Scholar
  41. Gueddiche M, Harjono H, Ben Ayed N, Hfaiedh M, Diament M, Dubois J (1992) Analyse de la séismicité et mise en évidence d’accidents actifs dans le nord de la Tunisie. Bull Soc Geol Fr 163:415–425Google Scholar
  42. Gutenberg B, Richter CF (1956) Earthquake magnitude, intensity, energy and acceleration. Bull Seismol Soc Am 46:105–145Google Scholar
  43. Gutscher MAS, Dominguez GK, Westbrook P Le, Roy F Ros (2012) The Gibraltar subduction: a decade of new geophysical data. Tectonophysics 574–575(2012):72–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Harbi A, Maouche S, Ayadi A (1999) Neotectonics and associate seismicity in the eastern Tellian Atlas of Algeria. J Seismolog 3(1):95–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Harbi A, Peresan A, Panza GF (2010) Seismicity of eastern Algeria: a revised and extended earthquake catalogue. Nat Hazards 54(3):725–747. Scholar
  46. Harbi A, Sebaï A, Benmedjber M, Ousadou F, Rouchiche R, Grigahcene A, Aïni D, Bourouis S, Maouche S, Ayadi A (2015) The Algerian homogenized macroseismic database (267–1989): a deeper insight into the Algerian historical seismicity. Seismol Res Lett 86:6. Scholar
  47. Hatzfeld D (1978) Étude sismotectonique de la zone de collision Ibero-Maghrébine. Ph.D. thesis, Grenoble (France), 281 ppGoogle Scholar
  48. Heezen BC, Ewing M (1955) Orleansville earthquake and turbidity currents. AAPG Bull 39(12):2505–2514Google Scholar
  49. Henares J, López Casado C, Sanz de Galdeano C, Delgado J (2003) Stress fields in the Iberian-Maghrebi region. J Seismolog 7(1):65–78. Scholar
  50. Hfaiedh M, Ben Ayed N, Dorel J (1985) Etude néotectonique et sismotectonique de la Tunisie nord-orientale. Note Serv Géol Tunisie n 16, pp 41–56Google Scholar
  51. Houseman G (1996) From mountains to basins. Nature 379:771–772Google Scholar
  52. Kanamori H (1977) The energy release in great earthquakes. J Geophys Res 82(20):2981–2987. Scholar
  53. King GCP, Vita-Finzi C (1981) Active folding in the Algerian earthquake of 10 October 1980. Nature 292(5818):22–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Maouche S, Meghraoui M, Morhange C, Belabbes S, Bouhadad Y, Haddoum H (2011) Active coastal thrusting and folding, and uplift rate of the Sahel Anticline and Zemmouri earthquake area (Tell Atlas, Algeria). Tectonophysics 509:69–80. Scholar
  55. Martinez Solares JM, Mezcua Rodriguez J (eds) (2002) Catalogo simico de la Peninsula Iberica (880 a.C.-1990). IGN, Madrid, Monografía Núm. 18, 254 ppGoogle Scholar
  56. McKenzie D (1972) Active tectonics of the Mediterranean region. Geophys J Roy Astron Soc 30(2):109–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Meghraoui M (1988) Géologie des zones sismiques du Nord de l’Algérie: Paléosismologie, tectonique active et synthèse sismotectonique. Thèse de doctorat Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France, p 356Google Scholar
  58. Meghraoui M, Maouche S, Chemaa B, Cakir Z, Aoudia A, Harbi A (2004) Coastal uplift and thrust faulting associated with the M (sub w) = 6.8 Zemmouri (Algeria) earthquake of 21 May 2003. Geophys Res Lett 31:L19605. Scholar
  59. Mokrane A, Aït Messaoud A, Sebaï A, Menia A, Ayadi A, Bezzeghoud M (1994) Les séismes en Algérie de 1365 à 1992. In: Bezzeghoud M, Benhallou H (eds). Publication du Centre de Recherche en Astronomie Astrophysique et Géophysique, Alger-Bouzaréah, 277 pGoogle Scholar
  60. Mourabit T, Abou Elenean KM, Ayadi A, Benouar D, Ben Suleman A, Bezzeghoud M, Cheddadi A, Chourak M, ElGabry MN, Harbi A, Hfaiedh M, Hussein HM, Kacem J, Ksentini A, Jabour N, Magrin A, Maouche S, Meghraoui M, Ousadou F, Panza GF, Peresan A, Romdhane N, Vaccari F, Zuccolo E (2014) Neo-deterministic seismic hazard assessment in North-Africa. J Seismolog 18(2):301–318.
  61. Ousadou F, Dorbath L, Dorbath C, Bounif MA, Benhallou H (2013) The Constantine (Algeria) seismic sequence of 27 October 1985: a new rupture model from aftershock relocation, focal mechanisms, and stress tensors. J Seismolog 17(2):207–222. Scholar
  62. Ousadou F, Dorbath L, Ayadi A, Dorbath C, Gharbi S (2014) Stress field variations along the Maghreb region derived from inversion of major seismic crisis fault plane solutions. Tectonophysics 632(2014):261–280. Scholar
  63. Ouyed M, Meghraoui M, Cisternas A, Deschamps A, Dorel J, Frechet J, Gaulon R, Hatzfeld D, Philip H (1981) Seismotectonics of the El Asnam earthquake. Nature 292(5818):26–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ouyed M, Yielding G, Hatzfeld D, King GCP (1983) An aftershock study of the El Asnam (Algeria) earthquake of 1980. Geophys J Int 73(3):605–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Philip H, Meghraoui M (1983) Structural analysis and interpretation of the surface deformations of the El Asnam earthquake of October 10, 1980. Tectonics 2(1):17–49.
  66. Rothé, JP (1950) Les séismes de Kherrata et la sismicité de l’Algérie, Bulletin du Service de la Carte Géologique de l’Algérie, 4e série Géophysique, 3, Mende, France, 40 ppGoogle Scholar
  67. Rothé JP (1955) Le tremblement de terre d’Orléansville et la sismicité de l’Algérie. Nature (Paris) 3237:1–9Google Scholar
  68. Rothé JP, Lepervier C, Truillet R (1977) Les déformations liées au séisme de 1954 d’El Asnam (ex. Orléansville-Algérie). Bull Soc Geol Fr XIX(3):641–644Google Scholar
  69. Roussel J (1973) Les zones actives et la fréquence des séismes en Algérie (1716–1970). Bull Soc Hist Nat Afr Nord Alger 64(3 and 4):211Google Scholar
  70. Santos R., Caldeira B, Bezzeghoud M, Borges JF (2014) The rupture process and location of the 2003 Zemmouri–Bou- merdes earthquake (Mw 6.8) inferred from seismic and geodetic data. Pure Appl Geophys 172(9):2421–2434Google Scholar
  71. Santos R, Caldeira B, Bezzeghoud M, Borges JF (2015) The rupture process and location of the 2003 Zemmouri–Boumerdes earthquake (Mw 6.8) inferred from seismic and geodetic data. Pure Appl Geophys 172(9):2421–2434. Published online: 23 Nov 2014.
  72. Shirokova EJ (1967) General features in the orientation of principal stresses in earthquake foci in the Mediterranean Asian seismic belt. Izv Earth Phys 1:12–22Google Scholar
  73. Soumaya A, Ben Ayed N, Delvaux D, Ghanmi M (2015) Spatial variation of present-day stress field and tectonic regime in Tunisia and surroundings from formal inversion of focal mechanisms: geodynamic implications for central Mediterranean. Tectonics 33.
  74. Stich D, Ammon CJ, Morales J (2003) Moment tensor solutions for small and moderate earthquakes in the Ibero-Maghreb region. Geophys Res Let 108(B3):2148, ESE 7-1-7-20Google Scholar
  75. Thio HK, Song X, Saikia CK, Helberger DV, Woods BB (1999) Seismic source and structures estimation in the western Mediterranean using a sparse broadband network. J Geophys Res 104(B1):845–861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Thomas G (1985) Géodynamique d’un bassin intramontagneux : Le bassin du bas Cheliff occidental (Algérie) durant le Mio-Plio-Quaternaire. Thèse ès Sciences, Univ. de Pau, p 594Google Scholar
  77. Van der Woerd J, Dorbath C, Ousadou F, Dorbath L, Delouis B, Jacques E, Tapponnier P, Hahou Y, Menzhi M, Frogneux M, Haessler H (2014) The Al Hoceima Mw 6.4 earthquake of 24 February 2004 and its aftershocks sequence. J Geodyn 77:89–109. Scholar
  78. Wessel P, Smith WHF (1991) Free software helps map and display data. EOS Trans AGU 72:441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Yelles-Chaouche AK, Djellit H, Beldjoudi H, Bezzeghoud M, Buforn E (2004) The Ain Temouchent (Algeria) earthquake of December 22nd, 1999. Pure Appl Geophys 161(3):607–621Google Scholar
  80. Yielding G, Jackson JA, King GCP, Sinvhal H, Vita-Finzi C, Wood RM (1981) Relations between surface deformation, fault geometry, seismicity, and rupture characteristics during the El Asnam (Algeria) earthquake of 10 October 1980. Earth Planet Sci Lett 56:287–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Yielding G, Ouyed M, King GCP, Hatzfeld D (1989) Active tectonics of the Algerian Atlas mountains—evidence from aftershocks of the 1980 El Asnam earthquake. Geophys J Int 99(3):761–788CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de Recherche en Astronomie, Astrophysique et GéophysiqueBouzaréah, AlgiersAlgeria
  2. 2.Departamento de Física, Escola de Ciências e Tecnologia (ECT)Instituto de Ciências da Terra (IIFA), University of Évora, Colégio Luis Antonio VerneyÉvoraPortugal

Personalised recommendations