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Fault activity in the epicentral area of the 1580 Dover Strait (Pas-de-Calais) earthquake (northwestern Europe)

​Geophysical Journal International / Volume 201, Issue 2, Pages 528-542, May 2015


​On 1580 April 6 one of the most destructive earthquakes of northwestern Europe took place in the Dover Strait (Pas de Calais). The epicentre of this seismic event, the magnitude of which is estimated to have been about 6.0, has been located in the offshore continuation of the North Artois shear zone, a major Variscan tectonic structure that traverses the Dover Strait. The location of this and two other moderate magnitude historical earthquakes in the Dover Strait suggests that the North Artois shear zone or some of its fault segments may be presently active. In order to investigate the possible fault activity in the epicentral area of the AD 1580 earthquake, we have gathered a large set of bathymetric and seismic-reflection data covering the almost-entire width of the Dover Strait. These data have revealed a broad structural zone comprising several subparallel WNW–ESE trending faults and folds, some of them significantly offsetting the Cretaceous bedrock. The geophysical investigation has also shown some indication of possible Quaternary fault activity. However, this activity only appears to have affected the lowermost layers of the sediment infilling Middle Pleistocene palaeobasins. This indicates that, if these faults have been active since Middle Pleistocene, their slip rates must have been very low. Hence, the AD 1580 earthquake appears to be a very infrequent event in the Dover Strait, representing a good example of the moderate magnitude earthquakes that sometimes occur in plate interiors on faults with unknown historical seismicity.

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