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The beginnings of the Swiss Seismological Serivce (SED) trace back to the establishment of the Erdbebenkommission in 1878. In 1914 the Swiss Meteorological Institution took over the seismological service in Switzerland. In 1957 this SED was attached to the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich. Since 2009 the SED is organised as a non-departmental entity under the direct control off the Vice President of Research and Economic Relations, but it remains associated with the Department of Earth Sciences.

2015 After ten years of intensive research, the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) at ETH Zurich has created an updated seismic hazard model, which confirms that earthquakes are a serious hazard for Switzerland.
2015 On 21 January 2015, the Swiss Federal Council approved the application for Switzerland's participation in the second GEM Working Programme.
2014 Hundredth anniversary of the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) as the official federal agency for earthquake monitoring
2014 Start of modernization of broadband network
2013 - 2019 Second phase of modernization of strong motion network
2013 Stefan Wiemer becomes Director of the Swiss Seismological Service and Professor of Seismology.
2013 Federal council resolution of January, 30, 2013, concerning earthquake precaution measures taken by the federal government for the period 2013 – 2016
2010 New website of the SED

New federal council resolutions:

  • Regulation of October 20, 2010, concerning the organization of ABC- and natural disaster operations
  • Regulation of August 18, 2010, concerning warnings and alerts
  • Federal council resolution of May 26, 2010, concerning participation in the international research project “Global Earthquake Model (GEM)“
2009 - 2013 First phase of modernization of strong motion network

New federal council resolutions:

  • Federal council resolution of April 1, 2009, concerning earthquake precaution measures taken by the federal government for the period 2009 – 2012
  • Federal council resolution of February 18th, 2009, concerning the renewal and financing of the Swiss strong motion network
2009 The SED becomes a non-departmental entity under the direct control of the Vice President of Research and Economic Relations at ETH Zurich.
2005 Start of upgrading of the real-time communication of the monitoring stations with data transfer to the Internet by telephone (previously via FOITT data network)

The SED publishes a seismic hazard map of Switzerland. Although it was only published in 2004, the findings were included in SIA norm 261 (2003 version).

2004 Powerful and highly available separate web server (Cluster on Linux) taken into operation.
2003 Opening of the IMS-Station DAVOX with satellite connection to the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) in Vienna.
1999 The on-call personnel is alerted with SMS in addition to the pagers used before.
1998 Publication of a uniform seismic hazard map for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland (known as D-A-CH)
1997 - 2013 Domenico Giardini holds the position of director of the Swiss Seismological Service and Professor of Seismology at ETH Zurich.
1997 Change from a redundant parallel data-collection system to a high-availability system using two servers.
1997 - 2004 Establishment of a new network of highly dynamic broadband seismometers; digital data transmission into the data network of the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication FOITT.
1996 Federal council resolution concerning the signing of the treaty for a complete ban of nuclear tests (nuclear-test-ban treaty, CTBT). The SED is tasked with the establishment and maintenance of a seismic sensor station near Davos integrated into the international monitoring system. The SED thus becomes Switzerland’s national data center for the international monitoring system.
1995 First foray of the SED into the World Wide Web. The very first version from 1995 is lost to time; the oldest version still available dates from 1996.
1992 - 1998

Installation of the Swiss strong motion network with acceleration sensors to detect strong ground movement. Until 1998, 59 sensors get installed on the open field and 34 sensors are built into in dams (see following figure):


Establishment of an automated data recording and evaluation system:

  • providing fully automated recording and localization of earthquakes both on regional and global scales and fast alerting of the responsible authorities
  • in case of strong earthquakes abroad fast alerting of the responsible authorities and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA)
1982 SED becomes a member of Swiss Rescue.
1977 Publication of the first earthquake risk map of Switzerland (Saegesser und Mayer-Rosa). Basis for the SIA norm 160 “Effects on Supporting Structures” (Einwirkung auf Tragwerke) published in 1989.
1974 - 2000 A high-sensitivity sensor network with radio-telemetry and central data collection is initiated; in the year 2000 it consists of more than 20 stations equipped with short-period sensors.
1974 - 1986 Earthquakes are recorded on microfilm (previously carbon paper).
1972 - 1998 Dieter Mayer-Rosa is leading the Swiss Seismological Service.
1971 - 1995 Stephan Müller takes over as the head of the Institute of Geophysics and at the same time holds the position of director of the Swiss Seismological Service.
1969 - 1971 Max Weber is leading the Swiss Seismological Service.
1956 - 1969 Fritz Gassmann holds the position of director of the Swiss Seismological Service.

On December 7th the federal assembly agrees on a federal law which puts the SED under the wing of the ETH Zurich (Institute of Geophysics). The law came into effect on March 29th 1957 and outlined the following tasks:

  • collecting and processing of observations and reports about earth quakes made directly by humans or indirectly by technical equipment,
  • operation of earthquake surveillance stations,
  • earthquake research,
  • contributions to international seismic research projects and organizations and
  • publication of the results.


1946 Exceptionally strong earthquake (Rossi-Forel Scale IX; Magnitude 6.1) near Sierre causes major damage. Normally there are around a dozen earthquakes felt in Switzerland per year; in 1946 this number jumped to more than 517 (all in the Mittelwallis area).  
1937 A. Kreis and E. Wanner build a vertical seismometer in order to improve the detection of long-periodic surface waves of distant earthquakes.
1932 Construction of an earthquake survey station in Sion, equipped with two Mainka horizontal seismometers. This was done to improve surveillance quality in the seismically most active area of Switzerland.
1928 - 1955 Ernst Wanner is leading the Swiss Seismological Service.
1927 Fritz Gassmann is leading the Swiss Seismological Service.

Using a transportable seismometer by De Quervain and Piccard an aftershock was recorded in the Wallis region for the first time, allowing the creation of precise estimates of traveltimes and velocities of the P and S waves.

QP Transportabel

A universal seismometer developed by Alfred De Quervain and August Piccard and weighing 21 tonnes is put into operation at the earthquake monitoring station in Degenried, Zurich. This means that for the first time all three components of movement during an earthquake (north–south, east–west, vertical) can be recorded simultaneously. Moreover, the seismometer is also capable of registering both strong earthquakes of distant origin as well as weaker earthquakes in closer proximity.

QP Degenried
1915 Construction of a third earthquake monitoring station equipped with a Bosch-Omori horizontal seismometer in Chur
1914 - 1926 Alfred de Quervain is leading the Swiss Seismological Service.
1914 Foundation of the Swiss Seismological Service
With the entry into force of the federal act on 1 April 1914, the status of the national seismic service changed from being a task to an official institution. From then on, the corresponding MZA department was known as the Swiss Seismological Service. Instead of being manned by volunteer academics, the seismological service was henceforth the responsibility of paid scientists in public service.
1912 Breakup of the Erdbebenkommission
1911 Construction of a second monitoring station equipped with a Mainka horizontal seismometer in Neuchâtel.
1911 On September 21st the new station in Degenried for the first time detects an earthquake. It occured in the Thurgau area.
1911 Inauguration of the first earthquake surveillance station in Degenried, equipped with a Mainka horizontal seismometer (1911-1958) and a Wiechert vertical seismometer (1911-1936).
1908 The federal council decides that the earthquake surveillance station in Degenried will be built by the Swiss Confederation and okays a subsidy of 12‘000 Swiss Francs.
1907 Switzerland’s first seismometer (horizontal seismometer-system Bosch-Omori) is set up in Davos by the German physicist E. Dietz.
1906 - 1913 J. Früh presides over the Erdbebenkommission.
1904 Switzerland joins the international Seismological Association.
from 1888 The annual reports of the Erdbebenkommission are published in the annals of the MZA.
1891 - 1905 Robert Billwiller, director of the Central Meteorological Institute (MZA), presides over the Erdbebenkommission.

Rossi and Forel develop a macro-seismic scale with ten degrees of intensity, sometimes referred to as "Swiss-Italian Scale".

Forel Rossi Skala
from 1879 Regular publication of annual reports about the earthquake activity in Switzerland.
1878 - 1890 A. Forster is the first President of the Erdbebenkommision
from 1878

On the occasion of the 61st annual meeting of the Swiss Society of Nature Sciences in Bern the Erdbebenkommission (earthquake commission) is established with its central office in Bern (initiated by F.A. Forel, A. Forster, A. Heim and E. Hagenbach). Switzerland is the first country to establish an official and permanent organisation for monitoring earthquakes, followed by Japan and Italy. The program of the Erdbebenkommission encompasses the following activities:

  • collection and archiving of reports of present earthquakes
  • construction of earthquake monitoring stations throughout Switzerland


The SED Yesterday and Today