Earthquakes in the District of Tübingen? Yes!

By Michael Seifert

Here’s something that many don’t know: between Tübingen und Balingen, we live in a region in which the earth shakes frequently. The last time an earthquake occurred was on Sunday evening, March 21st, at 6.38 p.m., and it had a strength of 3.6. In the region Tübingen/Reutlingen, you could hear a bang like an explosion and feel a short tremor. The mayor of a township on the edge to the Swabian Alps, where the center was, said: “It was as if a car drove into my house.”

Only in December 2020, there was a similarly strong earthquake at night, however, many slept through it. In comparison to regions in which dangerous earthquakes occur, such as Italy, the Balkans, Turkey or Iran, the earthquakes here are usually of minor impact. The strongest one in the last 100 years occurred on September 3rd, 1978, at 6 a.m. and had a strength of 5.7. The people in Tübingen were woken by a loud bang and a dull noise and were shaken back and forth in bed. Furniture shook and glasses clinked. Some walked onto the streets in their pajamas. You could feel this earthquake in a radius of 400 kilometers. Hundreds of houses in villages in the Swabian Alps were damaged. The overall damage was around 140 million Euros.

How should you behave during an earthquake? Dr. Stefan Stange, head of the state’s earthquake commission at the regional authority Freiburg, says this in a newspaper article: “Important during stronger quakes: If you’re indoors, don’t quickly run out into the street, as there could be falling roof tiles. By now, the structure is safe enough that houses don’t just collapse like that. However, you can get hit on the head by an object. Consequently: it’s best to get underneath a table quickly.” And you should not call the police, as that blocks the emergency line. You can get current information quickly on the internet under https://erdbeben.led-bw.de/

Earthquakes with a strength below 3 are seldomly felt, they are only measured by devices. During light earthquakes with a strength of 4, the objects in a room move and the loud noises of the seismic shocks are heard, however, damage is unlikely. Starting at strength 5, buildings can be damaged. The destruction of houses with a high risk for people is at strength 6.

There are two possible causes for earthquakes in our region: The Hohenzollengraben, which is one to two kilometers deep under the earth in Hechingen, and up to 30 kilometers deep underneath the Swabian Alps, is an unstable zone. It formed 15 million years ago when the Alps unfolded. However, after new insights by geologists, the causes lie deeper in a fault zone by Albstadt, 5 to 10 kilometers beneath the ground. Both zones are so close to each other that they can also have a combined effect.

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Die Burg Hohenzollern ragt über dem Zollerngraben auf, wo es Erdbeben geben kann. Bei dem großen Beben von 1978 wurde auch sie beschädigt. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL / Michael Seifert.

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