Ref: SCART-2018-0038

Earthquakes as collapse precursors at the Han-sur-Lesse cave in the Belgian Ardennes

Camelbeeck, Thierry ; Quinif, Yves ; Verheyden, Sophie ; Vanneste, Kris ; Knuts, Elisabeth

published in Geomorphology, 308, pp. 13-24 (2018)

Abstract: Collapse activation is an ongoing process in the evolution of karstic networks related to the weakening of cave vaults. Because collapses are infrequent, few have been directly observed, making it challenging to evaluate the role of external processes in their initiation and triggering. Here, we study the two most recent collapses in the Dôme chamber of the Han-sur-Lesse cave (Belgian Ardenne) that occurred on or shortly after 3rd December 1828 and between the 13th and 14th of March 1984. Because of the low probability that the two earthquakes that generated the strongest ground motions in Han-sur-Lesse since 1800, on 23rd February 1828 (Mw=5.1 in Central Belgium) and 8th November 1983 (Mw=4.8 in Liège) occurred by coincidence less than one year before these collapses, we suggest that the collapses are related to these earthquakes. We argue that the earthquakes accelerated the cave vault instability, leading to the collapses by the action of other factors weakening the host rock. In particular, the 1828 collapse was likely triggered by a smaller Mw=4.2 nearby earthquake. The 1984 collapse followed two months of heavy rainfall that would have increased water infiltration and pressure in the rock mass favouring destabilization of the cave ceiling. Lamina counting of a stalagmite growing on the 1828 debris dates the collapse at 1826±9 AD, demonstrating the possibility of dating previous collapses with a few years of uncertain-ty. Furthermore, our study opens new perspectives for studying collapses and their chronology both in the Han-sur-Lesse cave and in other karstic networks. We suggest that earthquake activity could play a stronger role than previously thought in initiating cave collapses.

Keyword(s): Historical collapses in Han-sur-Lesse cave would have been promoted by earthquakes ; A methodology for dating ancient breakdowns in caves is validated ; Seismicity role in cave room evolution may be stronger than previously thought
DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2018.01.030

The record appears in these collections:
Royal Observatory of Belgium > Seismology & Gravimetry
Science Articles > Peer Reviewed Articles

 Record created 2018-02-12, last modified 2018-02-12