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SwissEarthquakeExpert

How many monitoring stations does the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) use to measure earthquakes in Switzerland?

a) 0 - the SED can use data gathered by equivalent services in other countries.

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Over 150

b) Over 150

Correct!

c) 3

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Over 150

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More than 150 seismic stations operated by the Swiss Seismological Service monitor earthquake activity in Switzerland and its neighbouring countries in real time. These stations are spread across the entire country and are installed in various places, including caves, tunnels and even boreholes.

How high is the risk of earthquakes in Switzerland?

a) Moderate, compared to other European countries

Correct!

b) Very high

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: a) Moderate, compared to other European countries

c) Low, no strong earthquakes occur here.

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: a) Moderate, compared to other European countries

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Compared to the rest of Europe, Switzerland is exposed to a moderate seismic hazard, with an evenly distributed earthquake activity, the canton of Valais being the region with the highest hazard, followed by Basel, Graubünden, the St. Galler Rhine Valley and Central Switzerland. No regions of Switzerland are not at risk of any earthquakes at all.

The seismic hazard indicates where within a certain timeframe and how frequently certain shaking is likely to occur. The assessment of the seismic hazard is based on knowledge of tectonics and geology, previous earthquake history, descriptions of damage caused and wave propagation models.

How often are earthquakes felt in Switzerland?

a) Roughly once a year

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Roughly once a month

b) Roughly once a month

Correct!

c) Roughly once every five years

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Roughly once a month

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On average, the Swiss Seismological Service registers two earthquakes a day in Switzerland and its neighbouring countries, making a total of between 500 and 800 earthquakes a year. Usually, around 10 of these events are strong enough (i.e. have a magnitude of 2.5 or above) to be felt by the local population.

Which place in Switzerland has experienced the strongest quakes over the past 100 years?

a) Basel

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Sierre

b) Sierre

Correct!

c) St. Gallen

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Sierre

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In the evening of Friday, 25 January 1946, Sierre in the Upper Valais region was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.8.

It was already dark and there was snow on the ground in Sierre. At 18:32 the ground shook for a number of seconds. People ran out into the streets, chimneys and tiles fell from the rooftops and the streets were strewn with rubble. The power supply failed and for 10 minutes the city was plunged into total darkness. Very soon, the telephone lines became so overburdened that for a number of hours great uncertainty and chaos ensued.

Only the next day did the full consequences of the earthquake become apparent: 3 fatalities and 3,500 seriously damaged buildings. The value of the total damage caused would be equivalent to CHF 26 million in today's money.

What does the Swiss Seismological Service do when a quake occurs?

a) In each canton it has an emergency team, which inspects buildings for damage.

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: c) It immediately alerts the authorities, the general public and the media

b) It alerts the Federal Council and waits until the situation has stabilised.

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: c) It immediately alerts the authorities, the general public and the media.

c) It immediately alerts the authorities, the general public and the media.

Correct!

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Earthquakes can neither be predicted nor prevented. However, the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) monitors ground shaking around the clock. Within approximately 90 seconds of an earthquake, details about the time, location and possible effects appear on the website www.seismo.ethz.ch.

The SED automatically reports any noticeable earthquakes to the authorities and the media. At the same time, this information is transmitted to the SED’s 24-hour on-call service by pager, e-mail and text message. This service is also available to the authorities and the media for further information about current events, and produces background information that is published on the SED website.

In addition, in the event of any earthquakes that cause major damage worldwide, the SED informs the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA).

Where did the strongest ever earthquake to hit Switzerland occur?

a) Zug

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Basel

b) Basel

Correct!

c) Chur

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Basel

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After at least one foreshock during the afternoon of 18 October 1356, a quake with a magnitude of roughly 6.6 shook the city of Basel at about 22:00. This was the largest historically documented earthquake in Switzerland.

Numerous houses collapsed, causing several fires that took a long time to extinguish (due to the shingle and straw roofs, open fireplaces and heated ovens). Considering the strength of the quake and the destruction it caused, relatively few people fell victim to it, since many had already left their homes after the foreshock.

How high is the risk of earthquakes in Switzerland?

a) Low, because all buildings in Switzerland are well constructed.

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Presumably high, because it is not known whether most buildings were built to be earthquake-resistant.

b) Presumably high, because it is not known whether most buildings were built to be earthquake-resistant.

Correct!

c) High, because of Switzerland's proximity to the volcanoes in Italy.

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: b) Presumably high, because it is not known whether most buildings were built to be earthquake-resistant.

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The 2015 Risk Report published by the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP) ranked earthquakes as the third largest risk faced by Switzerland, after electricity shortages and pandemics.

The earthquake risk is based on a combination of four factors:

  • Seismic hazard
  • Local subsoil type
  • Building vulnerability
  • Value concentration

Many buildings in Switzerland are inadequately protected against earthquakes. The main reasons for this are the lack of regulations on earthquake mitigation at the time they were built and/or insufficient compliance with seismic safety requirements concerning construction.

What is an earthquake swarm?

a) A prize awarded to particularly innovative seismologists (every year in Zurich)

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: c) The occurrence of a large number of earthquakes of similar magnitude in the same place within a short timeframe (as for example in Sarnen)

b) Birds that fly away just before an earthquake, because they have already detected the waves in the ground (observed in Lugano).

Sorry, that's incorrect! The correct answer is: c) The occurrence of a large number of earthquakes of similar magnitude in the same place within a short timeframe (as for example in Sarnen).

c) The occurrence of a large number of earthquakes of similar magnitude in the same place within a short timeframe (as for example in Sarnen).

Correct!

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During so-called earthquake swarms, numerous quakes occur in the same place over a short time, but not in any clear sequence consisting of a foreshock, main quake and aftershock. Earthquake swarms are nothing unusual worldwide, including in Switzerland. Swarm activity usually ends after a few weeks or months, but just occasionally the quakes increase in strength and number over time.

In February 1964, hundreds of earthquakes occurred over several months in the Sarnen region. The two largest, with magnitudes of 5.0 and 5.7 shook the region on 17 February and 14 March respectively. The value of the total damage caused would be equivalent to CHF 16 million in today's money.

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