Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2021-74
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2021-74

  13 Jul 2021

13 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal SE.

The damaging character of shallow 20th century earthquakes in the Hainaut coal area (Belgium)

Thierry Camelbeeck, Koen Van Noten, Thomas Lecocq, and Marc Hendrickx Thierry Camelbeeck et al.
  • Royal Observatory of Belgium, Seismology-Gravimetry. Avenue Circulaire 3, 1180 Uccle, Belgium

Abstract. Shallow, light to moderate magnitude earthquakes in stable continental regions can have a damaging impact on vulnerable surface constructions. In the coal area of the Hainaut province in Belgium, a century of shallow seismic activity occurred from the end of the 19th century until the late 20th century. This seismicity is the second largest source of seismic hazard in northwestern Europe, after the Lower Rhine Embayment. The present study synthesises the impact and damage caused by this unique shallow seismicity. Reviewing intensity data provided in official macroseismic surveys held by the Royal Observatory of Belgium, press reports, and contemporary scientific studies resulted in a complete macroseismic intensity dataset. The strong shaking of five seismic events with moment magnitudes Mw around 4.0, which occurred on 3 June 1911, 3 April 1949, 15 December 1965, 16 January 1966, and 28 March 1967, locally caused widespread moderate damage to buildings corresponding to maximum intensity VII in the EMS-98 scale. For 28 earthquakes, detailed macroseismic maps were created. Our study highlights the capability of shallow, small-magnitude earthquakes to generate damage. Subsequently, using the Hainaut intensity dataset, we modelled a new Hainaut intensity attenuation law and created relationships linking magnitude, epicentral intensity and focal depth. Using these relationships, we estimated the location and magnitude of pre-1985 earthquakes that occurred prior to deployment of the modern digital Belgian seismic network. Estimated focal depths allowed discriminating between two different types of earthquakes. Some events were very shallow, only a few hundred metres deep, suggesting a close link to mining activities. Other earthquakes, including the largest and most damaging events, occurred at depths greater than 2 km but no deeper than 6 km, which would exclude a direct relationship with mining, but yet still might imply a triggering causality. This work results in a new updated earthquake catalogue including 123 seismic events. Our attenuation modelling moreover suggests that current hazard maps overestimated ground motion levels in the Hainaut area due to the use of inadequate ground motion prediction equations. Our Hainaut attenuation model is hence useful to evaluate the potential impact of current and future, e.g. geothermal energy, projects in the Hainaut area and other regions with a similar geological configuration.

Thierry Camelbeeck et al.

Status: open (until 24 Aug 2021)

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Thierry Camelbeeck et al.

Thierry Camelbeeck et al.

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Short summary
During the 20th century, shallow damaging seismicity occurred in and near the Hainaut coal mining area in Belgium. We provide an overview of the earthquake parameters and their impact combining felt and damage testimonies and instrumental measurements. Shallower earthquakes have a depth and timing compatible with mining activity. The most damaging events occurred deeper than the mines but could still be triggered by crustal changes caused by mining. Our modelling can be applied to other regions.