April 29, 2014 – A Deadly Tsunami in Switzerland 1,500 Years Ago Hits Lake Geneva: In the sixth century, Gregory of Tours, a chronicler of the Germanic people known as the Franks, told of an extraordinary event in what is now Switzerland, where the Rhone River spills into Lake Geneva (pictured above).
He wrote of a big rockfall in the year 563 near a place called Tauredunum. The debris plunged into the river, and a great mass of water “overwhelmed with a sudden and violent flood all that was on the banks as far as the city of Geneva,” more than 40 miles across the lake.
The rockfall itself may have been set off by an earthquake, as some scientists have speculated over the years.
Most tsunamis occur in oceans and are generated by earthquakes, like the one off Japan last year. But lake tsunamis are not unknown, said Richard A. Schweickert, an emeritus professor of geology at the University of Nevada in Reno. He cited evidence that the collapse of part of the shoreline of Lake Tahoe within the past 20,000 years caused a tsunami with wave heights of perhaps 100 feet. There are two faults under the lake that could have caused an earthquake, he said.
Dr. Simpson said the Rhone delta sediments might collapse again someday, perhaps from an earthquake or even their own weight, and a resulting tsunami could be far more devastating. In the sixth century, Geneva was a small community, mostly behind walls on a hill; today it is home to international organizations and about 200,000 people, many living in low-lying areas near the water. The study is a reminder that even a landlocked nation like Switzerland is not immune to catastrophic waves.
“People think, ‘Oh, lucky us, we live near a lake — we don’t have any such threat,’ ” Dr. Simpson said. “This reminds people that hey, hang on, these things have happened in the past, and quite likely will happen again.” Click on the link below for the complete story.
The Master of Disaster